When I first received the call that I had been chosen as one of many students to come for an interview, I was honored yet guarded because I was aware of how competitive the process could be. However, several months later after I underwent an unforgettable polygraph, I received the date to report as one of four interns with the NCAVC. With butterflies in my stomach, I still had not grasped the idea that this was actually happening. I felt as if I was in a dream and would soon wake up. But reality soon set in after my photo was taken, I was issued an ID badge, and I was given an access code. I discovered that more dreams were coming true when I had been assigned to the Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 (Crimes Against Adults).
Each and every day was remarkably different within the field of criminal investigations. I had the opportunity to work with experienced supervisory special agents, major case specialists, and knowledgeable research professionals who analyzed and researched the intricate, yet disturbed minds, of the most heinous serial killers. My primary assignment was to code cases for an on-going research study on the characteristics of serial killers. I made several trips down to the infamous file room containing highly publicized cases of Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos, Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Radar (the BTK killer). It was a researcher’s dream! While combing through the files, I examined both autopsy photos as well as police reports. All of the interns were constantly perched on the “edge of their seats” hoping to find one element that would perhaps explain what truly makes these killers tick. Although no single element was found to be consistent in each case, several other characteristics proved to be highly fascinating.
While each research assignment kept us highly intrigued for countless hours, we were able to experience many additional aspects of what the FBI and the NCAVC had to offer. Each Monday and Wednesday evening we discovered what it takes to make it as an agent during the new agent training at the FBI Academy. For myself and the other interns, the phrase “Power PT” will always hold a special place in our muscles! Fond memories of doing push-ups until we could no longer feel our arms and completing countless circuits will follow us throughout our careers. But we soon realized that PT was not the end of our training. With much excitement, we received firearm training shooting at the same silhouettes that each agent must qualify on. In addition, we were asked to participate in a hostage rescue team drill where we developed a strong appreciation for the amount of training required of the HRT. We were also fortunate to observe several training classes where new agents spend countless hours.
Yet the fun and excitement did not stop at the FBI Academy in Quantico. Towards the end of the internship, our supervisors felt we were prepared to make the voyage to Baltimore to view a few autopsies—15 to be exact. This experience will be embedded in my memory as well as my olfactory system for the rest of my life!
Each of the experiences excited and reassured my love of this field, but it was the case consultations, agent presentations, and the impromptu discussions that were the most rewarding during my time as an intern. Case consultations are available to law enforcement agencies when they feel they have exhausted all leads or ideas. As interns, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to observe about six consults; however, we were only permitted to speak if spoken to. At the end of each consult, the agents would typically allow the interns an opportunity as “junior profiler” where we could ask questions and add in any input we felt would be useful. In addition to the consults, I found the agent presentations to be extremely rewarding. During our time as interns, we were presented with several highly interesting topics such as content analysis, threat analysis, serial homicide, geographic profiling, and criminal investigative analysis.
My time at the FBI NCAVC was an experience that has changed my life and enforced my love for criminal investigations. Even though the process to be selected was long and stressful, I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat. Each day proved to be highly educational and life changing. Having the opportunity to utilize the past 6 years of my undergraduate and graduate education towards a significant goal was extremely satisfying and played a key role in my professional success.
Ms. Stephanie Dismuke graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and completed her master’s degree in forensic psychology from Marymount University in May 2007. She has been a Psi Chi member since 2000 and served in the West Virginia University Chapter as the service chairman. She is currently being considered for a position with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations as a field agent where she hopes to continue her love of criminal investigations.