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December 5, 2019St. Paul, MN, United StatesOperational

ICE HSI St. Paul graduated its inaugural class of Citizens Academy students

MINNEAPOLIS — The St. Paul office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) graduated its inaugural class of Citizens Academy students this fall, including 10 metro-area community leaders from various backgrounds.

The local leaders who were selected to attend HSI St. Paul's first Citizens Academy underwent an eight-week course. They had a unique opportunity to learn about HSI in an interactive environment that included classroom instruction and practical exercises. These participants came from various backgrounds including local businesses, media, finance, education, state and federal government, and volunteer services. Academy participants were afforded a unique insight as to how HSI enforces more than 400 federal statutes focused on border security, transnational crime and national security.

"HSI's Citizens Academy is an important tool to familiarize the public with HSI and our vital mission areas," said Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier. "This increased public understanding of HSI will help us continue to increase our mission effectiveness."

As students, Academy participants were exposed to the many different types of responsibilities that HSI special agents hold. The students participated in simulated investigations and other activities routinely encountered by HSI special agents.

Overall, HSI St. Paul's workforce represents about 1% of the agency's human capital, but it produces consistently high results based on these staffing levels. For example, in fiscal year 2019, HSI St. Paul obtained more than twice as many indictments and convictions than the national average, based on investigative hours spent per capita.

During one segment, Academy class participants conducted simulated human trafficking investigations. In 2019, HSI St. Paul obtained about 30 criminal convictions for human trafficking offenses, which represents nearly 5% of all criminal convictions obtained by the agency in FY 2019; also, 31 victims of human trafficking were rescued or identified.

Also included in the Academy program was a simulated narcotics enforcement investigation. In FY 2019, HSI St. Paul made about 100 arrests for various drug-related offenses, including smuggling and distribution. These arrests resulted in more than 120 seizures and about 60 convictions so far. Overall drug seizures during FY19 included the following approximate weights: (These are estimates based on initial reporting.)

  • Methamphetamine: 650 lbs.
  • Cocaine: 56 lbs.
  • Heroin: 8 lbs.
  • Other Opioids: 17 lbs.

Academy participants also learned about HSI's cutting-edge leadership and worldwide partnerships in child exploitation investigations. In FY 2019, HSI St. Paul arrested almost 80 people for child exploitation crimes, resulting in nearly 50 indictments and 23 victims identified or rescued. 

During the final phases of the Citizens Academy, the class engaged in "shoot/no-shoot" scenarios at a shooting range. This simulation was especially impactful as the students experienced split-second life-and-death decisions firsthand.

The Academy program culminated with a simulated grand jury experience, giving a taste of what it's like to participate in a grand jury as a law enforcement professional.

"It was an honor to assemble such a diverse group of community leaders for our inaugural citizens academy," said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Eugene J. Paulauskas. "The graduates universally appreciated a look inside HSI — the criminal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security."

Surveys of the class graduates showed that they were overwhelmingly surprised with HSI's wide reach and responsibilities, as well as the significant amount of training required to reach a special agent's elite level of expertise and professionalism.

Academy students were nominated by local HSI employees for inclusion. The Citizens Academy graduates have already started nominating applicants for the next session in the spring of 2020; they have also submitted leads to HSI's tip line and have shown strong commitment to a lasting partnership with HSI.

Through this Academy and future classes, HSI joins with the community it serves and protects, while educating and allowing community members to interact with and learn from actual special agents.

Recognizing the importance of our law enforcement partners, HSI is grateful to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota for their invaluable support with HSI St. Paul's first Citizens Academy.

Updated: 12/15/2020