By Lasca Randels
PIERCETON — Pierceton Police Cadets had the opportunity to attend a presentation by FBI Special Agent Billy Little on Sunday, April 11.
The cadet program includes monthly meetings with presentations on police-related topics such as CSI, traffic accident investigation, paramedic service, fire service, death investigation, community policing, S.W.A.T. and bomb squad.
Pierceton Police Chief Tim Sammons is the cadet class moderator, Pierceton Police Officer Ryan Piper is the police advisor for the male cadets and Pierceton Police Officer Ashley Jones is the police advisor for the female cadets.
The 12 cadets are juniors and seniors from four area high schools: Warsaw, Whitko, Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley, along with one home-schooled student from North Manchester.
FBI Agent Little, from the Federal Bureau of Investigations Indianapolis Field Office, has been with the bureau since 2017 and works as a bomb technician. Prior to his employment with the FBI, Little spent 20 years in the Navy, working as a bomb tech.
According to Agent Little, there are 56 FBI field offices throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
During the presentation, Agent Little shared with cadets the necessary requirements to gain employment with the FBI, along with information about training, salary and areas of investigation, which fall into one of two sections: criminal investigations or national security.
The national security section includes counterterrorism and counterintelligence.
“Ever since 9/11, the FBI has really put a lot of focus on counterterrorism because we had terrorists on our soil planning a huge, huge attack and somehow information didn’t get spread around right and the attack was successful,” Agent Little said. “So the FBI has put a lot more investment in personnel, training, money into counterterrorism.”
Terrorism involves both international and domestic.
International terrorism includes criminal acts committed by individuals or groups associated with foreign terrorist organizations. Agent Little used Al-Qaeda and ISIS as examples of international terrorist groups.
Domestic terrorism involves individuals or groups such as “KKK or some of your ANTIFA that are committing violent crimes, different racially motivated extremists” whose roots do not come from overseas.
Agent Little has been assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The Task Forces are the front line of defense against international and domestic terrorism.
“I don’t know if you’re aware, but in this part of Indiana, the northeast part of Indiana, around Fort Wayne and Kendallville, we have a huge, huge population of people who have migrated from overseas, especially from the Middle East. We have approximately 10,000 people, refugees, just from Burma. We have thousands of people that are from Yemen, people from all over,” Agent Little said. “That doesn’t mean they’re terrorists – they are not. These are just people from all over the world, but terrorists like to sneak their way into these pockets of people and migrate in and so our job is to find the bad ones and so that’s what we do.”
The first JTTF was established in New York City in 1980. There are now about 200 task forces throughout the U.S., including at least one in each of the FBI’s 56 field offices, along with hundreds of participating state, local and federal agencies.
Agent Little referred to local law enforcement as “the eyes and ears of the community” and said FBI agents could not do their job without the help of local law enforcement.
“We heavily rely on our state and local partners,” Agent Little said.
The Pierceton Police Cadet Program is for students interested in a career in law enforcement and the different aspects associated with law enforcement at local, county, state and federal levels.
Each cadet was carefully vetted through a seven-page application that includes a background check. Students selected for the program have a GPA of 2.8 or higher.
The cadet program, which began in 2019, is hosted by the Pierceton Police Department and is the only police cadet program offered in Kosciusko County.
The current class of cadets includes:
- Alivia Marks – North Manchester (home-schooled)
- Leona Sellers – Warsaw High School
- Ashley Miller – Wawasee High School
- Cameron Sapp – Whitko Jr/Sr High School
- Ira Lewis – Whitko Jr/Sr High School
- Cameron Charles – Warsaw High School
- Noah Dickerson – Whitko Jr/Sr High School
- Tahya Lybarger – Tippecanoe Valley High School
- Brennan Cox – Warsaw High School
- Christopher Bake – Tippecanoe Valley High School
- Meghan Leppek – Whitko Jr/Sr High School
- Mercy Alvarez – Wawasee High School
Sammons said it is his understanding that Camp H.E.R.O., hosted by the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, is expected to take place this year and that KCSO is interested in having the cadets serve in junior counselor positions.
Discussion has taken place between Sammons and some of the school principals to determine when to bring the current cadet class to an end. He emphasized that even if a decision is made to end the current cadet class at the end of April, the opportunity to participate with Camp H.E.R.O. and at other events will still be available.
Students interested in the cadet program may request an application from their high school principal. Applications may also be requested via email at [email protected] or by phone at (574) 594-2232.