NEW ORLEANS – Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans office graduated its first Citizens Academy class Nov. 19.
The nine community members selected to attend HSI New Orleans first Citizens Academy had an opportunity to learn about the HSI mission in an interactive environment that included classroom instruction and practical exercises. HSI New Orleans special agents introduced participants to national security, financial, narcotics, cyber, global trade, human smuggling/trafficking, and child exploitation investigations. Special agents led participants through a series of real-world experiences and investigative activities. These exercises included learning how to conduct surveillance, interview suspects, plan an operation, apply for and execute a search warrant, and arrest an individual.
Participants came from various backgrounds including local businesses, finance, state and federal government, and volunteer organizations. Despite an 8-month break due to COVID-19, the Citizens Academy class was able to resume when New Orleans moved into phase two of its pandemic response reconstitution plan.
"It was an honor to assemble such a diverse group of community members for our inaugural Citizens Academy," said New Orleans acting Special Agent in Charge Gilbert Trill. "This program is an important tool to improve communication, familiarize the public with our mission and the vital work HSI agents do to keep safeguard our nation, and increase our mission effectiveness.”
The course culminated with a simulated field day exercise, giving participants a taste of what it’s like to participate in a narcotics investigation and arrest. While taking part in hands-on activities, such as basic defensive tactics and entry techniques, participants also explored topics such as when the use of force is justified, decision making in dangerous, stressful circumstances, and the importance of cooperation and collaboration across federal, state and local agencies and with the community. Members of the Citizens Academy gained a greater understanding of the mission of HSI and the role of law enforcement in protecting national security.
“As we learn about everything that HSI does, you can see that it’s a very difficult job. I’ve been doing prosecution since 1998 and this course opened my eyes to just how difficult this job is to pull this off. It’s impressive and you have to be talented to do it,” said class spokesperson Rick Veters. “It’s been a great learning experience. Bottom line, it gives you a greater appreciation of what HSI does, the breadth of what they cover, as well as how difficult it is to pull it off. I’m going to recommend this program to everyone I can, because I think it’s fantastic and I think more people should do it.”
The graduating members are: Rick Veters, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor; Donald McKoin, Iberia Bank; Courtney Powell, OPLA; Robert Marquette, St. Tammany Fire Protection; Allen Dyess, Jefferson Parish Emergency Management; Kevin Woods, Jefferson Parish Emergency Management; Monica Dupeire, Metairie Bank; Sheri Combs, Covenant House; and Ivan Lopez, Navivan Corporation.
Participants for the academy were nominated by local HSI employees and previous Citizens Academy graduates for inclusion in the program. Once nominated, the interested community members had to apply and undergo a limited background check before ultimately being selected to participate.
Recognizing the importance of its law enforcement partners, HSI New Orleans is grateful to the New Orleans U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office for their invaluable support with HSI New Orleans Citizens Academy.
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.gov)