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10/11 News goes behind the scenes at the FBI Omaha Field Office

Bayley Bischof participates in the FBI’s 27th annual Citizens Academy
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 6:37 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Local news covers local police and state patrol nearly every day, but an agency not often making headlines in daily newscasts is the FBI. But the Bureau of Investigations has a presence in Nebraska.

10/11′s Bayley Bischof got a behind the scenes look at how the Omaha FBI’s field office operates as part of the 2021 FBI Citizens Academy. She sat down with Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel Friday to talk about her experience and why the field office puts on the academy.

“We find that by building that bridge with the community, by opening our doors so people understand us, we find it helps us in return protect national security and uphold the constitution,” Kowel said.

The Omaha FBI has had 27 academies and each year between 15 and 25 community leaders get to take a look behind the curtain.

Bischof said participants got a chance to learn how to dust for fingerprints and search for blood evidence with the FBI’s evidence response team. They ran active shooter drills with members of SWAT, wielding simulation guns before stepping onto the gun range and shooting the actual firearm agents carry on their hips every day.

The sessions, which went on for six weeks, are taught by active agents and analysts. Kowel said the academy is always worth their time.

“We’ve been doing these for a long time in FBI Omaha,” Kowel said. “We launched the first one in 2005 and recently completed the 27th and the longer we do them the more realize the benefits we reap and the benefits the community reaps from these communities.”

In addition to the hands on learning, sessions were taught on all of the FBI’s main missions, including counter-terrorism, cyber security, organized crime, violent crimes against children and more.

When asked what Kowel believes is the most interesting session of the academy, he said counterintelligence.

“People seem really interested to learn about counterintelligence,” Kowel said. “People are aware of our criminal program, the cases we make from gangs, bank robberies, crimes against children, those things are in the paper and on tv. But people aren’t always aware of the work we do on the national security side, especially with counterintelligence and the degree to which other nation states target us to steal our information, our innovation.”

Another interesting aspect the community may not know, Kowel said, is how small the FBI really is. He said there are fewer agents across the country than police officers in New York City. He said this requires them to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement, including the Lincoln Police Department.

“Whether it’s terrorism, on the cyber-front, crimes against children, every program involves teams of us working local police, local sheriffs and other federal agencies,” Kowel said.

The academy, sheds light on all of these topics and more. But it’s not just about sharing information, it’s about building relationships.

“The number one thing we want community members to know, especially those that have made it through our citizens academy, is that if there’s something we should know about, if there was a hate crime, gang violence, if they’ve been the victim of a cyber attack, we’d like to know,” Kowel said. “Call us.”

Bischof was nominated to attend the academy by an agent. Kowel said the agency specifically looks to bring community leaders through the program, whether that’s members of the media, people who work at non-profits or with churches or those who work with local businesses.

Applications for the citizens academy aren’t currently open, but you can check the FBI Omaha website for when they are.

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