Meet Special Agent Dave
This is the first installment in a series of profiles featuring DEA special agents, diversion investigators, chemists, and more. Learn about the tough but fulfilling, fascinating, and vital work these DEA personnel do, as well as the many different ways to get involved in fighting drug misuse.
For our first profile, we will be interviewing Special Agent Dave.
What motivated you to join the DEA?
I was motivated to join the DEA because I grew up in Detroit, Michigan in an environment where drug abuse was a prevailing issue. I was exposed to crime, violence, and other adverse social influences. Living in those challenging circumstances served as a catalyst for me to join the DEA, which provided me with a means of effecting positive change in the communities similar to the neighborhood I was raised in. Working as a DEA agent has allowed me to use my personal experiences to empathize with those facing similar struggles, and making a genuine connection with individuals I encounter while working as an agent.
What does an average day as a special agent look like for you?
An average day for me as a special agent is reviewing and responding to any pending email messages, reviewing any new developments related to any ongoing investigations, and then coordinating efforts with other team members and sharing any pertinent information with colleagues. However, in reality, there isn't an “average” day for a special agent because the workday of an agent is unpredictable. Depending on the day, I could be responsible for coordinating a surveillance of suspected drug traffickers, gathering evidence, debriefing confidential sources, writing reports, executing search warrants, and filing necessary paperwork to support my investigations and legal proceedings.
Depending on your assignment, your typical day could also include more untraditional things. For example, I am assigned to an office in the Bahamas and I frequently conduct surveillance in helicopters and pursue drug traffickers in speed boats, which is a rather enjoyable experience. However, as an agent, you may also be tasked with carrying out administrative duties, which doesn’t sound like something a DEA agent would do, but is definitely a part of an agent’s job. Being a special agent is a demanding job, however while being demanding, it is also a rewarding job.
What has been your proudest moment as a special agent thus far?
My proudest moment as a DEA agent was being the primary case agent in several investigations over a span of a few years, where I, along with my colleagues, arrested multiple Blood, Crip, and Mexican mafia gang members involved in trafficking drugs and guns that were all charged and convicted. It was a good feeling to know that I was a part of making the communities we police a little bit safer.
How can young people who wish to become special agents best prepare themselves for the job?
Young people who wish to become special agents in the future should try to do the following:
- Focus on acquiring an educational foundation. Obtain at least a bachelor’s degree
- Engage in regular exercise, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and prepare for the Physical Task Assessment, which is the physical assessment the DEA administers to potential recruits
- Maintain a clean background: a DEA applicant must pass a thorough background investigation; avoid engaging in illegal activities
- And lastly, stay persistent and resilient; becoming a DEA agent is challenging and competitive
The synthetic opioid fentanyl – often mixed into other drugs – is now responsible for tens of thousands of American deaths per year. How has the fentanyl epidemic changed your job?
The fentanyl epidemic has changed my job as a special agent in various ways. Fentanyl is extremely potent; even a trivial amount can be lethal if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. This has created an environment where I along with other agents take more precautions around suspected fentanyl, to include the wearing of additional personal protective equipment and having any fentanyl exhibit stored in additional protective containers when being transported. I’ve seen how addressing the opioid crisis has become a major focus for DEA, which has led to an increased collaboration between law enforcement agencies, public health organizations, and community partners. I am stationed in the Bahamas and I can see first-hand how the rise in fentanyl use has led to the targeting of fentanyl drug distributors and is a priority of both the United States and Bahamian governments.