Out of Michael Miller’s time working as an FBI agent, he said his favorite thing to do is process dead body scenes – not because he likes it, but because he is good at it.
Miller, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has worked directly with crime scenes for 15 of his 17 years serving in the bureau. While he currently works for the Kansas City FBI branch as a member of the evidence response crew, Miller spoke at K-State Wednesday night about his job and experiences at the agency.
K-State’s Kappa Sigma Upsilon chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association sponsored his presentation at the K-State Student Union.
Early in his speech, Miller discussed why he decided to pursue law enforcement.
“My friends were my biggest influencers for entering into law enforcement,” Miller said. “Mostly because many of them cops, which gave me insight on what I could do to help with the criminal justice system.”
After joining the FBI at age 36, Miller has now worked at agencies in 38 states. The agency employs nearly 35,000 people, according to the bureau’s website.
There are many jobs within the FBI, from intelligence analysts and scientists, to language specialists and special agents, all of whom use their different talents to achieve the agency’s mission.
“The mission of the FBI is to work toward finding those involved in criminal activities, such as Title 18 federal statutes, crimes in kidnapping, terrorism, counter intelligence, hacking, cyber security and stealing government money, public corruptions, color of law issues, transnational criminal organizations and white color and violent crimes,” Miller said.
While terrorism seems to be growing and is a major area of focus for the bureau, Miller said the Internet overall helps in catching terrorists.
“Our main priorities right now are to protect the United States from terrorist attacks, which we have seen escalate from online terrorist groups,” Miller said. “The Internet actually hurts rather than helps them, because the FBI receives calls about online terrorists that seem to have bad intentions, which we then pretend to conspire with them, while we are actually luring them in so that we can secretly catch them.”
Miler said that protecting civil rights is a top-five priority, as well as cyber security and public corruption, and that the FBI keeps an eye on people in law enforcement that abuse their authority by intimidating average citizens for their personal benefit.
While working to eliminate the bad intentions in people and public disturbances, Miller said he sometimes wonders if it is enough.
“We accomplish so much and catch enormous amounts of criminals, but I still go to bed every night wondering what is still out there and what we are missing because there is always bad in the world,” Miller said, “And though we minimize the amount, it is still hard to think about.”
Miller’s evidence response team is similar to local crime scene investigation forces, and currently includes full-time coordinates of three teams that consist of about 10 people per team, both professional support and special agents.
Taylor Tyrrell, sophomore in family studies and human services, asked Miller if his jurisdiction is just in the Kansas area or if he was allowed to branch out.
“Usually local law enforcements are restricted to certain jurisdictions,” Miller said. “However, my authority does not stop at state lines; it is all over the continental U.S.”
Miller and other FBI agents working specifically in local areas have the ability to search and bring people back to the area of crime for prosecution.
Miller spoke widely on the different areas of work in the bureau and how there is a wide range of opportunities for everyone to get involved, as well as the application process.
“First there is an online application, then a three-hour written test focusing on how one would react in certain situations,” Miller said. “From this they take about 10 percent of the top scores and invite them back for the written and oral exam, which they are then interviewed, and if all else goes well the FBI hires the applicant and gives them an academy date. Then, after passing the physical and medical tests, the applicants become agents.”
Cora Lucia, senior in sociology and vice president emeritus of K-State’s American Criminal Justice Association, asked how the interviews and polygraph stage were handled, what kind of questions are asked and how the process generally works.
“Usually (the questions) are drug related, and they will try and gauge you for honesty – mostly to search for major crimes,” Miller said. “They also will question you before actually giving you the polygraph because they want to see what your answers would be in a relaxed setting first. We all have skeletons in our closet, but all they really want is for you to be honest.”
Gerry Bolden, freshman in secondary education, asked if Miller had a favorite mission from working in the force.
In response, Miller described a case involving the kidnapping of a Chicago school teacher. It turned out she had a daughter and stepson, and the daughter was dating a gang member while the stepbrother was involved in a different gang. The stepbrother had stolen money and guns from his stepsister’s boyfriend, which led to the boyfriend kidnapping the mom for leverage.
Miller also discussed logistics like hours and pay. He said base-salary agents work around 40 hours each week, while special agents like Miller work 50 hours a week, which has given him enormous amounts of experience.
Miller ended his presentation with some advice for students, whether they are interested in the FBI or not.
“I encourage you all to strive to exceed with whatever interests you, and I stress that you not wait to follow your dreams, because the sooner the better,” Miller said. “Excel and record every step.”