FBI HISTORY 1/5
As viewed from a “recently” retired Special Agent’s perspective.
SA Stephen T. Smith
FBI Retired (1990-2016)
As a recent member of the International Police Organization, it is a pleasure to share with you my own perspective and appreciation for the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which I served as a special Agent for almost 26 years in a variety of assignments that spanned everything from small-town bank robberies to international terrorism investigations conducted on foreign soil.
My own experiences in conducting investigations reminds me of the adage that there are no unimportant jobs and that “Unity Is Strength”, all of the time, and over both time and distance. Organizations like the IPO celebrate what binds us together in what we in Law Enforcement like to refer to as “The Thin Blue Line” that serves to protect our respective societies from chaos, crime and corruption.
(President Roosevelt’s Cabinet with AG Bonaparte, 3rd from the left)
The FBI was formed in the year 1908 by then American President Theodore Roosevelt, with the assistance of his Attorney General, Charles Bonaparte, the grandnephew of French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, and all in response to the social chaos, interstate-related crime, and private and government corruption that accompanied a quickly expanding America at the turn of the last century in need of some fair and just regulation.
America has, from the time of its very founding as a democracy, tended towards de-centralized authority, as evidenced by the many thousands of American local, municipal and state law enforcement agencies that needed a federal scope to deal with increasingly complex criminal organizations that know no boundaries or limited jurisdictions.
For example, my last assignment in the FBI was to a small, but highly effective, South Carolina based Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigated and arrested criminals in multiple US states and jurisdictions with the considerable help, wisdom and combined experience of state and local sworn police officers whose investigative reach knew no limited jurisdictions en route to keeping criminals on the run and always looking over their shoulder from “The Long Arm of the Law”, and a bit sleepless we always hoped.
That said, the same lawlessness that necessitated the formation of the FBI back in 1908, had only grown and matured by the time I’d spent over 25 years combatting its influence. Our methods, tools and training in law enforcement have vastly increased in just the quarter century of my own FBI service to stay ahead of the criminal and chaotic threats posed by both modern anarchists and terrorists alike. I am proud to have been a part of this ongoing Law Enforcement training effort throughout my own FBI career.
(FBINA students participating in a class run at the FBI Academy)
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover formed the FBI National Academy (FBINA) in 1935 with both the encouragement of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Congressional approval to better standardize police training, leadership and ethics.
That same course and tradition continue to this day with approximately ten percent of every FBINA class consisting of Police Officers from all over the world attending the FBI’s ten-week course for future Law Enforcement leaders at Quantico, Virginia several times each year. I had the honor of instructing at the FBINA for seventeen sessions, and can attest to the lifelong bonds of friendship and cooperation such international training provides with active chapters of the FBINA Associates meeting monthly worldwide to keep those close ties fresh.
History is indeed written by the winning side, and the brave men and women who have chosen to risk everything to be of service to others as police professionals are daily adding to the success in keeping the wolves away from our front doors. It is an honor to have been a part of the shared history that is the FBI’s role in serving in the same Thin Blue line that stretches from Bangkok to Budapest to win our freedoms afresh, all while writing the next winning chapters in the history of policing.
If considering attending an international policing academy such as the FBINA, and you have any questions I can answer for you, please feel free to reach out to me for encouragement to do so via email at
SA Stephen T. Smith
FBI Retired (1990-2016)
IPO French Section
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not those of the FBI.