Graduation day for FBI's Citizens Academy

June 30, (CHICAGO)

An attempt over seven weeks to bring light to the otherwise cloaked operations of the nation's premier law enforcement organization.

For a guy who's experienced shooting only with a hockey stick this was intense.

A day on the range with Chicago's finest G-men -- and women -- part of graduation day from the FBI's citizen's Academy.

"Some of these people I brought in when I first got here were very standoffish, were very wary of the FBI," said Robert Grant, Special-Agent-in-Charge FBI Chicago. "The people we have and the commitment we have to serve the public, helped bridge relationships."

The class has 30 members representing a cross-section of the Chicago region.

"It gives you a very real perspective of how they function and the great work that they are doing," said Abdool Rahman Khan.

"They've been completely open and honest," said William Towns of Mercy Portfolio Services. "They've answered both the easy and most difficult questions, and have gone out of their way to explain things in a very free and open manner."

The range visit followed seven night sessions at FBI headquarters on Roosevelt Road where agents from cyber crime, counter terrorism and public corruption and other units -- including the team that investigated former governor Rod Blagojevich -- detailed the work they do - and the legal limitations on how they do it.

"It made me think more about the FBI and how much they put their lives at risk every day, and how little we may appreciate them," said Mary Pettinato.

As with most things FBI this bomb squad demonstration event was tightly scripted -- except for a brush fire it ignited. It was quickly extinguished. The man in charge says that when he. First started with the FBI he didn't agree with outreach like this - but attitudes change.

"We're not trying to turn anybody into government informers," Grant said. "The understanding the public has of the FBI is so small, so narrow. It's driven primarily by the media, TV, movies, things like that, and 95 percent of what the FBI does that the taxpayers pay for, they don't know.

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