2014 PFIG Recipient Matt Dorritie
Public Policy & Leadership
2015 Graduation Year
Internship: US Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration, NY Division in New York, NY
Notes on the first week
This summer, I am interning with the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City. I am working with the Strike Force Unit, which is essentially a conglomerate of agencies working together as one unit. Thus, while I am an intern for the DEA, I will be working with and be supervised by individuals who officially belong to other agencies, such as ICE-HSI, the FBI, the NYPD, the New York State Police, U.S. Marshals, and the IRS. By working together, each agency is able to combine their efforts and share information about potential targets in the drug trade. At the same time, though, each agency is able to focus on its own specialty (e.g. ICE-HSI focuses on immigration and customs, while the NYPD focuses on more local drug issues within the unit).
While I cannot go into the specifics about my job for security reasons, I am getting a taste of many of the responsibilities typically expected of officials working for the DEA. In the office, I assist agents in collecting information about targets through a variety of methods. This involves pulling pertinent information from a target’s file and gaining knowledge of his or her relationships with others involved in the drug trade in order to piece together a solid case to ultimately bring against the target. I also assist agents in other duties, such as observing a target in real time to discover if there is any sort of pattern that he or she exhibits.
As I am strongly considering a career in law enforcement, I hopefully will gain extensive insight into the day-to-day responsibilities and duties expected of agents within a variety of organizations (at the federal, state, and local levels). Thus far, it appears I will be able to participate in many of these duties under the supervision of the agents in the Strike Force Unit, so I am very excited about what else the summer has in store.
Over the past five weeks, I have come across many new experiences, many of which I can't say I was fully expecting at the beginning of the summer. As work at the DEA primarily relies upon the movements and actions of drug dealers and traffickers, my everyday work schedule tends to be pretty reactionary. As a result, my work tends to differ on a daily basis, which has been challenging at times as I have been forced to learn on the fly. However, I have gotten the hang of dealing with such quick change at this point. In fact, this constantly changing schedule is one of the largest reasons why I was interested in working for the DEA in the first place, as I never find myself bored.
To be a little more specific, I have continued some of the work I began working on in the beginning, such as engaging in surveillance and gathering information on targets. However, I have also been tasked with several new duties over the past few weeks. For example, I created a heat map of the areas that are most vulnerable to drug trafficking within New York City. Moreover, I have been shown the legal side of cases. Two weeks ago, I attended a meeting between a Special Agent and a prosecutor, which helped me learn what information is essential in bringing a case to court. Similarly, I attended a meeting last week with a judge to get an affidavit sworn and signed, which shed light upon the necessary steps to take in hanging a wire. To this point, I began working in the wire room last week as well. While I have only really shadowed agents while in the wire room, I have been able to listen to taped conversations and gather all the pertinent information taken from such calls to assist with my unit's current case.
As my internship enters its second half, I have two primary areas that I would like to see more of. First, I would like to see a bit more of the legal side of cases, as that is a career field that I am potentially interested in pursuing. Second, I am hoping to gain more experience in the field. At this point, I have learned what is necessary to effectively surveil a target. However, I would also like to learn how to carry out/observe a sting operation in which doors need to be taken. Although this does not happen in every case, it happens more frequently that I had thought and is quite dangerous. As a result, I would love to learn the "do's and don'ts" in such circumstances since agents cannot afford to make any mistakes.
Overall, I have had a great experience at the DEA and the Strike Force. While I am unsure if I will be granted the opportunity to see everything I would like to (due to my level of security clearance), I have already learned a great deal and am very excited about the rest of my time at the DEA and the Strike Force this summer.
Having now completed my internship, I can now say that this summer was an incredible learning experience for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, my internship at the DEA, and particularly within the Strike Force, gave me great insight into the day-to-day operations of those involved in law enforcement at each level of government - federal, state, and local. Admittedly, the summer began with a slow start, which was frustrating as I was not able to get a great understanding of the job at first. However, as I met more professionals within the office, I pushed for more challenges and responsibilities and ultimately was able to see much more than I ever expected, particularly in the last few weeks of the internship.
For example, one case I worked on has apparently been on-going for several years now. The case itself has been met with many dead ends, and my job was simply to monitor the target through a pole camera. After several weeks of monitoring, it appeared as though I was not going to witness much action, as the target did not appear to be engaging in any suspicious activity. However, during my last week, I finally witnessed what appeared to be suspicious activity by the suspect and his/her associates. Upon noticing such activity, I briefed my superiors upon my findings, and they were able to go into the field to conduct surveillance on the target to help build an even stronger case against the target.
Similarly, on my last day in the office, I was able to witness a takedown and subsequent arrest of an alleged drug trafficker. The day began early in the morning, as we were briefed on how the operation would be conducted (with an undercover going in first followed by a takedown by the rest of the operations team). After scouting out the location, each person on the team set up near the location, which was a particularly shady area within the city. While this was certainly nerve-racking, the operation went off without a hitch, and I was finally able to see firsthand how all the different moving parts came together to result in a successful arrest. For me, I cannot think of a better way to have ended my internship, as I was able to witness almost every part of the case from start to finish.
Above all, the internship has helped me gain a greater understanding of what I want to do with my career in the future. I have always had a strong interest in law enforcement and criminal justice. However, I never had any concrete experience in the field. Having now completed my internship with the DEA and at the Strike Force, I can now say with more certainty what I desire for my future career path. I had a fantastic experience at the DEA, and I certainly would not rule out the possibility of one day pursuing a career as a Special Agent within the Administration. However, having worked cases at the ground level and having seen the legal side throughout the summer, my hope now is to go to law school and one day become a criminal prosecutor. For me, such a career would fulfill a wider reach of my interests, as I would still be able to see how cases are worked in the field, yet I ultimately would be the person bringing suspected targets to justice.
All in all, my experience at the DEA and the Strike Force this summer was both enjoyable and enlightening. Every agent/detective within my team was a pleasure to work with, and I was able to learn a great deal from each of them. Working at the Strike Force was a particularly unique experience, as I was able to see how the strengths of each agency were drawn upon to create a strong case against each target we focused on. Altogether, it was a wonderful experience, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from everyone at both the DEA and the Strike Force.
Finally, of course, I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone on the Parents Committee who helped make this experience possible for me. Without your support, I never would have been able to gain such a valuable experience that truly has given me strong direction in choosing a future career path. For that in particular, I am extremely grateful. I hope you all have had a fantastic summer, and I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone involved!