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Alumni Stories: Bob Bennett '93

Working For The F.B.I.: A Cultural Imperative

by Alina Gonzalez '08bennett

During his Dartmouth days, Bob Bennett, Class of 1993, never envisioned a career in criminal justice. Today, Bob serves as an FBI agent who finds daily rewards and challenges in the profession he has chosen.

A native of South Dakota and a member of the Lakota tribe, the Big Green alum came to Dartmouth through the proverbial twist of fate.

A scholar and skilled high school baseball player, Bob had been offered several athletic scholarships to schools in the Midwest when he was contacted by Dartmouth's baseball coach "out of nowhere."

"A unique circumstance presented itself and things worked out well," he says.

While at Dartmouth, Bob continued to play baseball, was an active member of Native Americans at Dartmouth, and a brother at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity.

As graduation approached, Bob considered becoming an educator or an attorney but he says that ultimately he "really didn't have a clue" about what the world had in store for him post-Dartmouth. That changed in June of 1992 when the Oakland Athletics Baseball Organization drafted him.

"I never knew exactly how close I was going to get to the big leagues, but the opportunity to keep playing baseball presented itself so I took it,” he said.  

Bob played as a professional pitcher for five seasons, returning to Dartmouth after the first to continue his education. He graduated with a degree in Government and a minor in Native American Studies.

At the end of his five-year run with professional baseball, Bob says he was "geared to become a lawyer," when a sibling inadvertently changed his mind.

Several years earlier, Bob's older brother had become a tribal police officer on South Dakota's Cheyenne River Reservation. The elder Bennett eventually took a position as a criminal investigator on the Rosebud Reservation to which their family belonged.

"My brother began telling me stories of being a policeman and working with FBI agents who would come down to the reservation to help out with some big cases, and it all sounded so interesting," Bob says.

He decided to send in one application for employment as an FBI agent and, knowing that the FBI application process often takes more than one year, Bob also applied for the position of deputy sheriff in his hometown.

Bob landed the sheriff’s position where he remained for two years "learning the ropes of basic law enforcement."  He then became a police officer for the Rapid City Police Department in South Dakota.

Soon after arriving in Rapid City, Bob learned that the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs had opened up a criminal investigation unit and he decided that work with this agency would be fascinating. Again, Bob landed the job. After two and a half years with the BIA, Bob received a call in 2003 from the FBI offering him a position with the institution whose work had earlier so intrigued him.

"It's amazing what we can do," he says. "From covering a small financial fraud case to briefing the President on a possible terrorism issue...the gamut of work that we run is just amazing."

These days Bob works ten-hour shifts handling white collar crime like healthcare and insurance fraud.

"Every once in a while we get a serial bank robber, a kidnapping, and occasional drug and fugitive work, but especially since 9/11, the threat of terrorism is the FBI's number one priority,” he said.

His job also involves conducting civil rights investigations, particularly in situations where police officers have killed someone suspected of committing a crime.  "It's not necessarily high-speed, but critically important nonetheless," he says.

"You just have to know that with that badge and gun and the ability to enforce federal law comes a high moral standard. You have to humble yourself and put yourself on the same level as anyone you deal with," he says.

Ultimately, Bob wants to work again with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and he has two more years in Amarillo before he is eligible for consideration. "Out of the FBI's 12,500 special agents, only fifty of us are American Indians, yet we have jurisdiction over hundreds of thousands of people who live on reservations and we are sorely underrepresented in the law enforcement arena," Bob says.

His first venue with the FBI was Iowa, where he covered Nebraska's Winnebago and Santee reservations. "The people on these reservations really need someone who understands, in very general terms, their culture-- it's a great benefit to Native Americans to work with someone who has a basic understanding of reservation life,” he said.

"The cultural implications are why I really want to return to work in Indian Country," he says. "Since less than a quarter percent of FBI agents are Indian American, it's a unique role and I want to be their advocate."

Wherever he serves, Bob reflects on the motto popularized by Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Last Updated: 6/21/12