Citizens academy allows insights into how the FBI operates

It’s not unusual to take a night class to learn a little more and expand your horizons, but one particular class covers global terrorism, bank robberies and cybercrime.

About 20 people attend the FBI Las Vegas Citizens Academy annually in late February/early March. The course is designed to acquaint community members and leaders with the methods and operations of the FBI.

“The program aims to foster a greater understanding of the FBI’s role in the community and to open lines of communication with the people it serves,” said Holly James, community outreach specialist for the FBI’s Las Vegas office. “This was our 11th time doing it this year. It’s a national program now. Every FBI field office does it at least once a year.”

James added that the eight-week program originated in the Phoenix office.

“It was incredible because you were really able to understand the intricacies of the FBI and their ability to work within several sectors of crime ,” said Francisco Aguilar, a lawyer who attended this year’s academy. “You get to see how they approach something, how they deal with it and how they get an outcome.”

The weekly classes are generally three to four hours each and include 15 to 20 students. This year, the classes were on Tuesday evenings and began with an introduction to the FBI and a tour of its offices. By the end of the eight weeks, the students had gained working knowledge of a variety of crimes and crime-stopping techniques.

“You always wonder how they’re going to top last week,” Aguilar said. “Every week they always did.”

Aguilar particularly enjoyed the night class members went to the FBI shooting range and watched the agents train in tactics and weapons, including sniper rifles.

“We had the opportunity to fire some of the weapons,” Aguilar said. “You really understand the kind of impact a weapon can have.”

Beyond the literally flashy parts of the class, Aguilar and his classmates learned a lot of simple techniques to make them less likely to be victims of crime and to have a better idea of what to expect if they are. The classes are taught by supervisors from different squads within the FBI.

Many of the 19 attendees who graduated April 19 joined the group’s alumni association, which is an active organization that participates in many crime prevention events and trips.

Participants often are recommended by someone who took the class previously or an FBI employee, but residents can nominate themselves to attend.

Requirements to attend are set to be posted on the FBI Las Vegas Citizens Academy website at

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 702-380-4532.