An Intern Supervisor's View [Kristen R. Beyer]
|FBI NCAVC Internship Program: Real-World Insight |
Into Violent Crimes
|Kristen R. Beyer, PhD, FBI NCAVC|
Jason Keller, US Investigative Services
I suppose you could say that I truly understand the value of an internship not only in my capacity as the Research Coordinator of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) and Supervisor of the Internship Program, but also as an intern myself with the FBI not so long ago. In 1995, I was an Honors Intern assigned to the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (BSU). At the time, I was a graduate student in a clinical psychology program at the University of Detroit Mercy. Up until that time, most of my clinical practicum experience had been focused primarily on neuropsychology. I was intrigued by what I had read about the research that was being conducted by the FBI's BSU, including the Criminal Personality Project, and wanted to pursue an opportunity to be involved in this type of work. So I called (yes called, by picking up the telephone) my local field office in Detroit and asked about internship opportunities.
When I contacted the Detroit Field Office, I had my first real experience with government bureaucracy. It was on November 14, 1993, (obviously burned in my memory) and I was excited to speak to the FBI Applicant Coordinator and to learn that the FBI did in fact offer internship opportunities. However, much to my disappointment, I had missed the November 1 deadline. To my deluded and naive credit, I did attempt to provide what I perceived to be several viable alternatives as to how and why I could still submit my application, but as you might imagine, I had no luck. Then I suggested that perhaps I could be considered as an alternate. "We do select alternates," the voice on the other end of the phone stated, "but only from our applicant list. Good luck submitting your application next year." In the life of a graduate student, that year seemed like an eternity. I was not to be dissuaded, however, and I documented the deadline for the application for the following fall in my planner. In the end, I was selected for the internship with the BSU, which proved to be an experience that shaped my professional career and personal development in ways that I could not have imagined. Today, I have the privilege of overseeing the research for the FBI's NCAVC, an offshoot of the BSU. My role as the NCAVC's Research Coordinator and Internship Supervisor allows me to work with interns on a daily basis and hopefully provide them with life-changing experiences and professionally enhancing opportunities.
The NCAVC's mission is to provide operational support, training, and research in the areas of repetitive or unusual violent crime and counterterrorism. The NCAVC research program approaches research from a law enforcement perspective by examining offender, victim, and offense characteristics and maintaining a practical and applied focus. The research helps to provide an empirical foundation from which investigative experience and clinical acumen are built upon.
The NCAVC is currently comprised of four units: the Behavioral Analysis Unit-1 (Counterterrorism/Threat Assessment); Behavioral Analysis Unit-2 (Crimes Against Adults); Behavioral Analysis Unit-3 (Crimes Against Children); and ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) which maintains a database of violent crime for linkage analysis purposes. The NCAVC also recently established a Behavioral Research Group (BRG) which serves as "consultants to the consultants" by providing research resources to the four units. The BRG was created to promote academic rigor of the research by maintaining research principles of standardization, reliability, and validity. Interns are coassigned to the BRG and one of the four units.
The NCAVC sponsors a 14-week nonpaid internship program during the fall and spring semesters. Although the NCAVC does not provide any funding for the intern, Psi Chi has sponsored an internship grant of up to $7,000 for an intern who is a Psi Chi member in good standing and applies for the internship grant. One grant is awarded each semester. See the Psi Chi/FBI NCAVC Internship Grant application form on page 32 of this issue of Eye on Psi Chi or www.psichi.org for more details about the Psi Chi grant application process and selection criteria.
The full-time, 40-hour per week NCAVC internship often provides students with their first real experience in a professional setting. Students must be enrolled in school at the time of the internship and must successfully pass a thorough background check to include drug testing and a polygraph examination in order to receive a Top Secret clearance. Unlike many internship opportunities which are often clerical in nature, the NCAVC embraces the interns as team members and fully incorporates them into the daily routine. Interns are treated like full-time employees where they experience a high degree of autonomy in scheduling their days. They are assigned to several projects and are able to plan their time accordingly.
The main role of the NCAVC intern is to provide support to the research. Given many of the research projects within the NCAVC are long-term, the interns generally contribute to an aspect of the research during their internship such as conducting literature searches, requesting case materials from local and state law enforcement agencies, coding data, entering data, cleansing data, and writing research results. Interns also contribute significantly to operational needs by assisting Supervisory Special Agents in developing presentations that highlight the salient features of a case to be used for training law enforcement officers throughout the country. While involved in the internship, students also have an opportunity to observe operational consultations, attend National Academy classes at the FBI Academy, and meet with agents and professional support staff in small group settings to receive training in their area of expertise.
What does the NCAVC look for in their interns? Given that the NCAVC focuses on human behavior, it makes sense that the majority of our interns have a psychology background. However, we have selected interns from a variety of social science and physical science backgrounds, including criminal justice, criminology, sociology, social work, forensic science, chemistry, biology, and law. For our BAU-1 unit (Counterterrorism/Threat Assessment), we are accepting more students with majors of Middle Eastern studies and political science. The NCAVC also selects both undergraduate and graduate level students and ensures that their assignments are consistent with their skill levels.
Of course we also look for hardworking, motivated, and stellar students who exhibit professionalism, transferable skills, and initiative. We expect our interns to maintain a high degree of professionalism in the way they conduct themselves when working with agents and support staff. In regards to transferable skills, many students have an interest in forensics but have not had an opportunity to gain real-life experience conducting research on serial murder or child abduction. Still, many students do have experience conducting research on other issues and the research skills they acquired on these projects can easily be transferred to NCAVC research projects. These transferable skills include understanding research design and methodology, critical thinking, attention to detail, creativity, and innovation. When interviewing for an internship opportunity, students need to "sell" their transferable skills. Initiative is also an attribute we look for. Students who competently complete their assigned tasks but see other ways in which the task can be conducted more efficiently or expanded to improve the project make a significant impact on the work within the NCAVC.
The NCAVC internship is often described by students as "an opportunity of a lifetime." Most interns report growing professionally and personally while having their world expanded by their experiences. Many of our former interns return to the FBI as either FBI Agents or Professional Support Employees (i.e., Intelligence Analysts or Crime Analysts). The FBI NCAVC internship program offers participants real-world insight into violent crime and offenders, thereby allowing interns to differentiate between reality and television fantasy, all while giving them a hands-on opportunity to decide if such a career is a good fit for them. Just look at me. Who would have thought 11 years ago that today I would be overseeing the research program where I once worked as an intern? And if I can do it, anyone can.
An Intern's View [Jason Keller]
Working as an intern at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in spring 2006 was undoubtedly an experience unlike any other. The opportunity to work with the FBI's most seasoned special agents and professionals significantly outweighed the seemingly daunting and extensive initial background and application process.
When I first reported to the internship, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Mission Impossible: getting briefed on the strict security procedures, gaining access to the buildings with secret codes, receiving instructions to look away any time I saw the word "Confidential" on a document and disavow any information I might have seen. Being one of three interns, I was assigned to the Behavioral Analysis Unit II (BAU-II) while the other two interns were assigned to BAU-I and III. I was thrilled to become a part of the unit which specializes in crimes against adults. For the first time, I was able to use in a meaningful and realistic way the research skills I had learned in my undergraduate psychology education as well as the investigation skills I had acquired in my graduate studies in forensic science.
My daily activities involved being a part, albeit a small part, of a team of highly trained and experienced research professionals and special agents who have all explored the complex and convoluted minds and motivations of criminals from Dennis Rader, the highly publicized BTK serial killer, to Maturino Resendiz, the Mexican Railroad Killer. The atmosphere at the office fostered an excellent opportunity to network with the investigators and listen to tales of bringing unruly and violent criminals to justice, only later to delve into their psyche to learn what makes them tick. On several occasions, we were fortunate enough to receive briefings from agents about a particular case or investigative technique. Even more beneficial than a briefing or presentation was the opportunity to observe the investigative techniques in operation. To us, as interns, getting invited to observe a case consultation was like finding the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.
While we were only permitted to speak when spoken to during a case consultation, many of the agents allowed the interns to sit-in on their meetings with local police departments when the local departments needed investigative assistance with a case. Whether the police department investigators were stumped and needed a fresh investigative strategy or had already apprehended a suspect and needed prosecution strategies, a team of special agents would gather around the cherry wood conference table and review the cases with a fresh set of eyes. Unlike television or movie dramas in which the bad guy gets caught in a matter of four commercial breaks, sometimes even the seasoned FBI investigators lacked ideas or leads in a case. More times than not, however, the agents did provide assistance that moved the investigation along.
It was this process of agents, all with different specialties and experiences, brainstorming about a case and offering suggestions for future investigation which I found most fascinating and educational.
One of my most rewarding research projects was assisting a retired Baltimore Police Homicide Lieutenant who works at the FBI as a Major Case Specialist. His research involved gathering case information from homicides involving the use of an edged weapon, such as a knife, saw, screwdriver, or any other brutal instrument that could be used to stab or slash a victim. He was primarily interested in the relationship between the number, severity, and location of edged weapon wounds as they related to specific victim-offender relationships. For my part in his research project, I was granted access to the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, better known as the ViCAP database, which is a collection of case information from the nation's most violent crimes. From this database, I coded information from the ViCAP database into a standard protocol that could be used to correlate the victim-offender relationship with the wound patterns.
While the agents and researchers kept us busy with our own projects, we were also offered the opportunity to participate in some non-conventional extracurricular activities beyond our routine office duties and research projects. We were fortunate to be able to attend several classes taught by FBI instructors at the FBI's National Academy including lectures on lie detection, terrorism, and serial killers. During our time at the FBI Academy, we took several tours of various FBI facilities including the impressive forensic laboratory and Hogan's Alley, a small town setup for the new agents to participate in realistic exercises. The town includes the Bank of Hogan where numerous masked actors have been known to carry loot out the front door and be required to submit to the new FBI agent trainees as they practice their arrest techniques.
While we were never tackled or arrested in Hogan's Alley, on two separate occasions we were put to the test at the firing range with the opportunity to prove our marksmanship. We were further tested in our ability during FATS training, while armed with a laser gun and put through life-like scenarios on a projection screen, requiring split-second lethal or non-lethal decisions. Finally, much like Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, we took on the challenging obstacle course aptly named the Yellow Brick Road, having nothing to do with munchkins or the Wizard of Oz.
When I first submitted my application for the NCAVC internship, I had no idea of the extent to which I would be involved in researching America's most violent offenders, firing weapons next to FBI agents, or attending classes from world-renowned law enforcement professionals. This internship was the best experience of my life thus far and has drastically shaped my future career goals. As a result of my interactions with the exceptional agents and staff members of the NCAVC, I hope to pursue a career in federal law enforcement with my ultimate goal of someday walking across the stage at the FBI Academy to shake the director's hand and receive my credentials as a special agent with the FBI. [Jason Keller was the first NCAVC intern to receive a Psi Chi/FBI NCAVC Internship Grant.]
|Dr. Kristen Beyer
received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Detroit
Mercy in 1997. She worked as a clinical neuropsychologist in the
Department of Neurosurgery at Children's Hospital of Michigan and The
Neurosurgery Group, Inc. Dr. Beyer was also an assistant professor at
Wayne State University's School of Medicine. In 1995, Dr. Beyer was
selected in a competitive process for the FBI's Honors Internship
Program. Dr. Beyer was assigned to the Behavioral Science Unit in
Quantico, VA. There, she provided research support to the instructors
within the unit and was exposed to the overall operation of the FBI.
This experience led to the subsequent application for her current
position. Currently, Dr. Beyer supervises the FBI's Behavioral Research
Group, a component of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of
Violent Crime. She is currently the Social/Behavioral Science Research
Coordinator for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
(NCAVC). She has been involved in numerous research projects including
maternal filicide, child abductors who have murdered their victims,
domestic violence homicide, Internet sex offenders, and serial
murderers. Dr. Beyer is currently adjunct faculty at Marymount
University (VA) in the Forensic Psychology Graduate program.|
Jason Keller is
the spring 2006 Psi Chi/FBI NCAVC Internship Grant recipient. He
graduated from the University of Colorado in 2002 with a bachelor's
degree in psychology and completed his master's degree in forensic
science from George Washington University (DC) in May 2006. He has been a
Psi Chi member since 2001 and served in the Boulder, CO, chapter as an
officer and president during the spring and fall semesters of 2002.
Jason is pursuing a career in federal law enforcement and hopes to
someday work alongside the professionals of the NCAVC.
For more information on the NCAVC and other FBI internship opportunities, please visit the NCAVC website at www.fbi.gov
under employment/internships. The NCAVC deadlines for internship
application are approximately nine months prior to the actual internship
due to the background check process. Application deadlines are November 1 and March 1. For questions about the NCAVC internships, please contact Dr. Kristen Beyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the
International Honor Society in Psychology
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