James Smith Becomes First Black Official To Head FBI Office In New York

James Smith Becomes First Black Official To Head FBI Office In New York

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has named James Smith the first Black director of the New York office.

Smith has spent the last two decades with the bureau working counter-terrorism and national security investigations as well as helping to oversee cyber and surveillance programs. Most recently, the new FBI Assistant Director ran the fourth-largest bureau office in Houston after serving in the Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Antonio offices.

Smith joined the FBI in 2004. He spent many years as a supervisory special agent investigating MR-13 gang members and other organized criminal groups. In 2012, the Massachusetts native joined the International Violent Crimes Unit where he managed international hostage-takings, major crimes, and fugitive matters, according to the FBI.

During his tenure in Los Angeles, Smith was supervisor of the Violent Crimes Against Children Squad before taking his skills to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Squad where he led the charge on Mexican criminal enterprise investigations, the Compton Safe Streets Task Force, and other crime task forces.

In 2016, the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University alumnus was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the San Antonio Field Office. There, he oversaw national security, intelligence, cyber, language services, surveillance, and aviation programs, according to the FBI. Smith also helped oversee an investigation into serial bombings in Austin which called for hundreds of officers searching for the suspect who killed two and injured five.

Smith didn’t intend to join the FBI. In fact, he barely missed the cutoff to be part of the bureau, according to KHOU 11.

“I was 36 when I entered and I turned 37 one month after I graduated from the academy,” he said. The cutoff age for the FBI is 37.

Smith’s unconventional route to the FBI may also be an influential factor on how he approaches the role he plays in addressing the country’s crime rates. He doesn’t point the finger at marginalized communities, the way local law enforcement often does.

“Criminal activity has evolved and changed over time,” he said. “They [criminals] adjust to various types of crimes. They learn from the mistakes they’ve made and now they are going forward with new tactics.”