Columbia FBI Chief Susan Ferensic Breaks Down Law Enforcement Barriers | Colombia

Women who aspire to reach the highest level in American law enforcement have a role model in Colombia.

Susan Ferensic has spent the past two years as a Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in charge of the Columbia Field Office. The wife and mother is the first woman in this position, and she understands that it is an honor and a distinction.

“This is the 50th year; we are hitting our 50th anniversary of allowing women to become special agents,” she said. “So we kind of celebrate that women are in that role right now.

“Our numbers aren’t fantastic, when it comes to female special agents. You know, I think a lot of young women can look to a career in policing, but they may not have role models. or people to talk to about what it’s like to be a woman in law enforcement or in a male dominated environment.. So I would say roughly, we don’t have exact numbers, but about 20% of all officers are women, and of that, you know, it’s a very small subset of women who make it into the executive ranks and have the honor of leading a division ground.

Ferensic considers herself a ‘good field agent’ compared to a ‘good female field agent’. From competition to physical fitness testing to firearms exams, the FBI maintains the same standards and qualifications for all agents.

At the same time, she takes pride in maintaining a family life.

“I’m very, very proud and lucky to say that I’m also a mother, and I think a lot of the young women I’ve spoken to are worried that if they go into a career in law enforcement, they might not be able to. not really being a mom,” she said. “And I would say you definitely don’t have to give up on your dreams of having a family. No career is worth giving up on having a family; I would say that “Being a mum is hard no matter what. So as an agent you just have to make sure you have a really good support network. But I would encourage that for anyone who is going to be a mum.”

According to Ferensic, dreams of working for the FBI began in third grade in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside of Washington DC.

“At that time, you would take a field trip to the FBI building,” she said. “They did a little tour where you walk through some screens and walk past glass windows with examiners doing forensic examinations.

“One of the displays was very attractive, and it really grabbed me when I was eight. It showed a different couple of flashing lights on a map of the United States. And it was supposed to represent, you know , different crimes that happened say every 10 seconds there was a carjacking or every 30 seconds there was a bank robbery. So different colors for associated crimes. And there was only lights going out everywhere. And my eight-year-old thought, I’m going to be an FBI agent; they need help. And it really was that simple. And I didn’t think not always hooked on this notion of being an FBI agent, but I always came back to it. And even when I was doing digital forensics, it was cutting edge technology. It was a great career opportunity.”

At the same time, Ferensic had initial doubts about pursuing a career in law enforcement. After earning a math degree from the University of Maryland and working as a computer scientist at the Department of Defense, Ferensic realized she had nothing to lose by trying.

In 1997, Ferensic began working with the FBI’s Laboratory Division, which proved to be very timely given the staff mix.

“There were quite a few female forensic examiners, and I would say the biggest issue was that digital forensics was a very new field,” she said. “So there were a lot of questions about how to move forward and develop the program, realizing that computers were going to hit all types of crimes in the future. So I would say I was part of a small portion of the population that actually had a very technical background; being a woman in STEM was unusual at that time. But, because the field was so new, we actually had several women in the FBI doing digital forensics. So it was a bit of an unusual situation. I was very lucky to have counterparts who had similar backgrounds and similar interests at the time.

After being selected as a special agent in 2000 and graduating from the FBI Academy, Ferensic was assigned criminal computer intrusion and national security cases at the Washington Field Office.

His career trajectory continued upwards earning a promotion to Supervisory Special Agent in the Cyber ​​Division at FBI Headquarters, as Program Manager for Criminal Computer Intrusion Investigations . Ferensic was transferred to the Albuquerque New Mexico Field Office in 2009 to lead the team of cyber and technically trained agents and served as the Supervisory Special Agent for the Albuquerque Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Other promotions followed, such as Special Assistant to the Executive Assistant Director of the Science and Technology Branch at FBI Headquarters, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Branch of the Sacramento Field Office in California, Section Chief of the Section Digital Forensics and Analytics in the Operational Technology Division at FBI Headquarters and Chief of Staff for the Crime, Cybersecurity, Response, and Services Branch.

“I’m very lucky to have had a lot of opportunities,” she said. I took risks and I had people who encouraged me throughout my career to try to take the next step, even when it’s scary,” she said. “And even when you’re not sure whether you’re preparing, you do your homework, you’re as physically and mentally ready as you can be. And you take those steps, and you rely on the same mentors and coaches to help you through the tough times.

After fulfilling his dreams in law enforcement, Ferensic’s next goal is to become a “retired FBI agent”. Until then, she will continue to help create a diverse workforce that would benefit law enforcement in the long run.