Lawrence Chui headshot.

In the News: Lawrence Chui on the FBI’s Citizens Academy

Lawrence Chui, professor of accounting at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, recently spoke with the Star Tribune about why he joined the FBI’s Citizens Academy.

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From the story:

Each year, Citizens Academy offers about 40 people with wide-ranging backgrounds – teacher, banker, pilot, executive coach, former mayor – a peek inside the bureau’s operations. A few even get inside a bomb suit, transforming themselves into a sort of Army green astronaut. (“If you’re sitting on top of a device, this is going to eat shrapnel,” a bomb tech explained.)

Though the Minneapolis FBI has hosted Citizens Academy for more than 20 years, its community engagement efforts have become more relevant as trust in law enforcement has fallen. Since 2020, Gallup polls have shown that public confidence in both police and the FBI slipped below 50% for the first time in decades.

The academy is designed to educate the public about the FBI’s work and cultivate a diverse group of informal ambassadors, who tip them off to issues in their communities. But it’s also about humanizing the bureau’s elite, dark-suited agents, explained Alvin M. Winston Sr., the Minneapolis FBI's special agent in charge. ...

Lawrence Chui, an accounting professor at the University of St. Thomas, has an interest in financial fraud. That’s why he applied to Citizens Academy. Chui said he was most surprised to learn that the FBI dealt with civil rights violations.

“What comes to mind when you hear FBI is, ‘Somebody got shot,’” he said. “We get all our information from Hollywood.”

While many of the people who sign up for the academy have a relatively positive perception of the profession, that’s not always the case.