The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO), forensic psychology class in Grove recently hosted a Secret Service agent whose identity must remain confidential. Currently based out of field office in Oklahoma City, the agent spent time talking about his job in protection, polygraphy, interrogation, the local Oklahoma cases he has worked, and what it takes to be a member of one of the elite governmental crime-fighting agencies.
The tall, unassuming man in the navy blue suit, sunglasses perched on top of his head, is a “bullet guy.” Along with 300 other agents, 60 of whom are women, he is part of the Presidential Protection detail, assigned to protecting the President of the United States, both in the United States and abroad.
“Protecting the most powerful people in the world,” the agent said, “is a harder job to get into than being a first-round draft pick in the National Football League. The application, interview, and training are extensive and exhaustive. The Secret Service knows everything about their applicants; what you did in that cornfield, what you were doing on that roof. We must know everything about an applicant before they are fit to take the oath, ‘Worthy of Trust and Confidence.’”
The Secret Service is the second-oldest federal protection agency. Starting in 1901, after losing a third President to assassination, the Service was originally founded by the “Pinkertons” in 1861 to combat rampant counterfeiting during the Lincoln administration. Today, the Secret Service still fights counterfeiting, as an estimated $15 million per week in counterfeit bills flows through Oklahoma alone. In addition to investigating counterfeit cases and protecting the President, the agent who spoke also assists with missing and exploited children cases, sex predator cases and murder investigations. He is one of only 23 polygraph examiners in the world working for the Secret Service.
Secret Service agents are also called in by local law enforcement to aid in felony cases, such as the “Mud Cat” case in Oklahoma. This case was made famous due to the connection with the A&E show “Mud Cats.” The stars of the show were found guilty of murder, due in part to the Secret Service polygraph examination.
The agent stressed that, “a forensic psychology class is important to becoming an agent. All agents go through a master’s level course in forensic psychology during training. That class lasts eight weeks.”
He also added that while grades are very important, the Secret Service would not consider someone with a GPA of 3.8 who failed a polygraph. Someone with a 2.8 GPA who was not deceptive would be considered. It’s all about integrity.
To illustrate his point, the agent then asked for a student volunteer to be hooked up to his portable polygraph machine. As the entire class watched, the agent performed a polygraph on the student. The volunteer’s heart rate, galvanic skin response and respiration were all recorded and shown on a large screen. It became obvious to all the students very quickly when the volunteer began to tell the lie, when he told the lie, and when the lie was finished.
As the 75 minutes came to an end, the agent related his experiences guarding “The Beast” (the armored vehicle in which the President travels), what it is like to travel on Air Force One, how he and other agents watch the crowd as the President walks a rope line and what it is like to protect the most powerful man in the world. The tall, unassuming man in the navy blue suit is the “bullet guy.” He is the man who takes the bullet for the President of the United States.
Becoming a Secret Service agent is to become the elite of the elite. It involves extensive training, travel and stress. In hiring, the agency gives preference to veterans and women. They encourage applicants with a foreign language background, computer training, business and finance degrees, not criminology or criminal justice. For more information on becoming a Secret Service Agent, please go to: usajobs.gov
Future plans for the NEO-Grove class include an FBI visitor, a forensic psychologist and a medical examiner. The class has already had a hostage negotiator come speak, who wishes to remain anonymous as well.
Several of these law enforcement agencies use their visit to NEO to recruit prospective employees. It's a win-win situation.
“Speakers like this are important to the class for their wealth of ‘real world’ knowledge. They help the class understand the many facets of law enforcement that use psychology, especially forensic psychology,” said Dr. Lesli Deichman, forensic psychology instructor. “The speakers are individuals who have been or are currently in the field as agents, therefore, their stories and cautionary tales are invaluable as teaching tools. I can get up in front of class and talk all day about the theory in Forensic Psychology, but when the ‘guy in the blue suit’ makes an appearance, well, students really start to listen.”