Andrew Arena '88, assumes lead post in charge of FBI Michigan operations
Although a typical day for Andrew Arena ’88, may begin calmly with an early morning workout, he juggles an intense workload as a high-level officer in the FBI.
Interviewed just seven days prior to starting a new job as the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit division, Arena says he looks forward to returning home where several family members have served on the police force and where he graduated from Gabriel Richard High School. Arena will oversee 11 FBI satellite offices within the state of Michigan.
“A job with the FBI gave me the opportunity to couple my law degree with my desire to be in law enforcement,” says Arena. “I knew in my heart that is what I wanted to do.”
Arena’s career has exposed him to the types of crimes and characters that most Americans only see portrayed in TV shows or the movies. In his most recent position as the special agent in charge of the New York office criminal division, Arena’s team has put bank robbers, mobsters and mail fraud offenders behind bars to name just a few. Whether it’s organized, white collar or gang crime, Arena has been at the helm instructing and guiding field agents.
He will put this expertise to use in Detroit and layer that with additional responsibility for counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. It will be familiar ground for Arena, who returns to Detroit having served in 2001 as the city’s assistant special agent with responsibilities for counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence programs.
Keeping the peace
Most days, Arena’s schedule books up quickly with meetings that are usually taskforce-oriented and comprised of members from state, local and federal agencies. He anticipates it will be similar for him in Detroit. According to Arena, since 9/11, the frequency of joint investigations has increased and information sharing is a must within the other
“After 9/11, law enforcement changed,” says Arena. “The American people will never know how much intelligence we have and how much we work on (homeland security). At times, we receive tips on a target and realize it’s best to get the word out to local law enforcement or to the country at large, and it has worked. Other times, we can’t share our leads with the public, but we do share with other agencies to ensure that intelligence is widespread and cohesive.”
He takes pride in the work he has accomplished throughout his career with the FBI, which began in 1988. When Arena was chief of the international terrorism operations section at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2002, he was instrumental in beefing up the agency’s counterterrorism division and establishing the need for taskforces.
Sensitivity training also emerged as professional development for agents focusing on homeland security in the aftermath of 9/11. Arena supports the training as it educates agents and makes them more aware of our country’s diverse cultures and the sensitivities related to the differences.
Fellow alumnus supports Arena in the Detroit FBI office
While Arena didn’t cross paths with Bill Kowalski ’82, in law school, their FBI responsibilities have them working together not once, but twice. Arena was Kowalski’s boss when Kowalski worked out of the FBI field office in Flint and Arena was in Detroit the first time. Now they will work in the same office where Kowalski heads into his third year as Detroit’s assistant special agent in charge of counter-terrorism.
“It’s always nice to have SACs (special agents in charge) who want to be here and who are familiar with the territory,” says Kowalski. “Andy’s challenges in Detroit will be adjusting to the larger joint terrorism taskforces. They are larger now than when he was here before. The partnerships in our efforts on counter-terrorism are more refined now but I know Andy will hit the ground running (familiarizing himself with matters quickly). He’s very competent.”
Arena will rely on Kowalski regarding issues concerning homeland security at the U.S. and Canadian borders. Because of Detroit’s proximity to Canada, Kowalski says the Detroit office routinely interacts with customs, exchanging “watch lists” and identifying suspicious characters.
Arena and Kowalski are proof that law school students can branch out from typical legal careers upon graduation. In fact, working with other alumni to protect the nation from terrorists and other criminals may be the best combination.