Editor’s note: This article is written as a special tribute to law enforcement and to share the great event envisioned by the ACAMS Greater Twin Cities Chapter (GTCC).
I usually write from the perspective of a subject-matter expert discussing various terrorist financing, money laundering or fraud issues. This article is much more personal. It is about love and respect for those who chose the path of law enforcement. This story is particularly poignant to me because I spent 28 years in law enforcement. It starts with the GTCC and their desire to honor law enforcement by hosting a law enforcement appreciation event on April 26, 2016.
The Seed Was Planted
One evening during the ACAMS 14th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference in Las Vegas last September, my wife Molly and I had dinner with Shannon Bennett and her husband Robert. Our discussion led me to reminisce about my law enforcement career by telling a number of Lormel war stories. Depending on your perspective, we all either laughed with or at me as I recounted my adventures—or perhaps better stated my misadventures. I ended the discussion by stating that I was very fortunate to be in law enforcement when I was because the consequences of being a law enforcement officer today are much more daunting than what I encountered in my day.
At that point, Bennett shared an idea she wanted to present to the ACAMS GTCC board. Bennett is the chapter co-chair and a well-respected person in our profession. Bennett expressed her concern about a recent rash of killings of police officers and her sense that police officers did not receive the respect they deserved. She advised that she planned to present a proposal to the GTCC board about hosting a law enforcement appreciation event. Bennett emphatically talked about her respect for law enforcement and her desire to let law enforcement know how the AML community feels about them. She asked me if I thought a law enforcement appreciation event would be embraced.
Having been in law enforcement and now being a consultant observing the interaction between the financial sector and law enforcement, I was absolutely blown away. I told Bennett it was a fabulous idea and I would do whatever I could to support the effort. That is what afforded my opportunity to witness the marvelous efforts of the ACAMS GTCC to take a vision and bring it to closure in such a successful manner. The joy and mutual respect that manifested itself as a result of this idea and the actual event was very rewarding for all involved. Likewise, the enthusiastic response by chapter members and the law enforcement community in the run-up to the event was very touching and infectious.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Event
The ACAMS GTCC committee meticulously planned a combined learning and social event. The learning event included an ambitious agenda of meaningful topics. Sandwiched into the middle of the learning event was the tribute to law enforcement through the presentation of a beautifully large decorated sheet cake and a heartfelt round of applause for the law enforcement personnel in attendance. The learning event was followed by a networking social. To cap off the evening, many of the participants ventured out together to attend the Minnesota Twins baseball game. Despite the chill in the air, the goodwill and camaraderie of the ACAMS GTCC Law Enforcement Appreciation event carried over to the game with a sense of warmth and fraternity. To make the night better, the Twins won the game with a walk-off hit in the last inning.
The ACAMS GTCC Law Enforcement Appreciation event drew over 200 attendees from the Minneapolis area financial services industry and law enforcement community. More than 50 federal, state and local law enforcement members attended. They all work closely with financial institutions. Also recognized were approximately 10 retired law enforcement personnel now working in the industry.
Bennett, the ACAMS GTCC co-chair and chair for the planning committee, along with John Byrne, executive vice president for ACAMS, set the tone for the event in their welcoming comments. Bennett spoke about the level of respect the ACAMS GTCC had for law enforcement and how she enjoyed working with law enforcement. Byrne stressed the importance of public-private partnerships and how ACAMS private sector members strive to provide law enforcement with the financial intelligence necessary to obtain criminal prosecutions. From a training perspective, Byrne stated, “Our most successful programming occurs when we have law enforcement involvement.”
The learning event echoed Byrne’s sentiments. There were four panel presentations given by predominantly law enforcement presenters. The panels addressed business email scams, IRS scams and the Minneapolis SAR team SAR review process, elder fraud and abuse, and human trafficking. I was afforded the opportunity to lead the training session off with a presentation on terrorist financing. I spoke right after Bennett and Byrne opened the event. Before beginning my presentation, I advised how much the event meant to me as a retired law enforcement officer and thanked the committee for their consideration. I noted that law enforcement is a more challenging profession today as opposed to when I served and I thanked the law enforcement attendees for their dedication and service.
In a fitting gesture of appreciation, Bennett and the ACAMS GTCC board, along with Byrne, presented a cake to the law enforcement personnel in attendance. Bennett requested that the law enforcement attendees stand. Bennett thanked them on behalf of the ACAMS GTCC and led the chapter in saluting the law enforcement honorees with a round of applause. She then repeated this gesture by acknowledging the retired law enforcement attendees.
At one point during the networking reception, Bennett and I had a discussion with Barry Untinen. Untinen is an IRS special agent. Untinen stated that as a result of the learning event he was considering getting CAMS certified and seeking his next career in the AML and fraud space.
The Unique Bond Between Financial Institutions and Law Enforcement
Financial institution anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud compliance personnel share a unique bond with law enforcement. Both professions have many members who are dedicated professionals. Each profession serves on the front line in different ways in the fight against money laundering and fraud. AML and fraud professionals work diligently to identify suspicious activity and to safeguard their financial institutions from criminal exploitation. They also work vigorously to provide law enforcement with the financial intelligence necessary to make prosecutable cases. Law enforcement is the beneficiary of the work performed by AML and fraud professionals. Many impactful criminal convictions have been achieved through this unique public-private collaborative relationship. The interaction between AML and fraud professionals with law enforcement has led to many lasting friendships.
The significant differentiator between AML and fraud professionals and law enforcement is that law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect society. Too many law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. We, as a society, do not do enough to thank law enforcement for their dedication and sacrifice. We in the financial services sector truly appreciate law enforcement and cherish the relationships we have developed. This unique bond is what motivated the ACAMS GTCC to show their affection and gratitude for law enforcement.
Shannon Bennett’s Perspective: Partnering With Law Enforcement—Our Mission and Appreciation as a Community
Based on our numerous conversations and her passion about supporting law enforcement, I asked Shannon Bennett to share her personal feelings about this topic. She provided me with the comments set forth below, which are in her words:
“As someone that has been in the financial industry a long time, I have had the good fortune of working directly with law enforcement. It started in the mid-90s when I was working for a small community bank. On several occasions—due to the number of hats I wore—my interaction with law enforcement came in many different variations. There are two dealings with law enforcement that stand out to me. The first was when I was asked by the FBI to provide the description of an individual that had perpetrated a crime against the bank due to my exchange with the suspect. Based on that information, I was then asked to confirm the identity of that individual through photos. The individual was apprehended, found guilty and made to pay restitution to the bank. The other interaction that I recall that truly impacted my decision to focus in this area includes working with a local police detective. Throughout my stint at that bank, we had many different interactions, one being his attempt and success to recoup a substantial loss from fraud. This reinforced my appreciation and desire to help law enforcement identify and prevent financial crime. The passion and determination I witnessed during these interactions from these individuals was contagious.
Fast forward 20 years and I have had even more memorable interactions and significant instances where helping law enforcement made a momentous difference in the lives of many individuals. In a recent role, my boss (who was a former secret service agent who I very much respected) my team and I worked directly with law enforcement in the capacity of liaisons. Our objective was to support law enforcement’s effort by providing a single entry into the company to ensure we provided the partnership and collaboration required to meet our shared goal. I have since seen this similar approach taken by many in the industry to reinforce and provide a mechanism to make it easier for law enforcement to request and receive the needed information as quickly as possible.
Understand that my passion with and respect for those working in law enforcement who are helping protect the institution, community and country is shared amongst those of my peers that choose to work and specialize in this area of focus in detecting and preventing financial crime and other criminal activity. We recognize that financial institutions and law enforcement are very much intertwined and rely on each other to defeat this growing problem, whether it is identifying possible terrorists or victims of fraud or worse.
With so much going on in our nation and the world, it seemed to be an appropriate time as a community to show law enforcement our appreciation for all their dedication and service. I mentioned this as a possible opportunity for a future event at an ACAMS GTCC board meeting and found that I was not alone in my desire to show some form of gratitude to the community of individuals that protect us, whether locally or nationally.
At the ACAMS 14th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference in Las Vegas, my husband and I were having dinner with Dennis Lormel and his wife. I mentioned what we wanted to do as a chapter and Lormel embraced the idea and offered his assistance. He agreed that it was time to pull together and recognize these individuals and so we began our collaboration to provide an appreciation event recognizing law enforcement. The agreement for this recognition was then reinforced by John Byrne and Mike Rodriguez from ACAMS.
At the beginning of the New Year, the chapter’s event committees, law enforcement liaisons, along with the treasurer, worked with us to determine the agenda and venue. Much to my amazement, Lormel quickly reached out to the heads of the criminal divisions at the FBI and IRS and began to build momentum for the event from law enforcement. We determined that it would be great to show appreciation with recognition during a half-day learning event followed by a networking reception and Twins baseball game.”
Results of the Event
Through Bennett’s vision and the commitment of the ACAMS GTCC, a very meaningful professional and social event took place that further enhanced the mutual respect and bonds between the private and public sectors. To say that the ACAMS GTCC Law Enforcement Appreciation event was a success is an understatement. The affection, respect and enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the day were the product of meticulous planning and engagement by the planning committee, the ACAMS GTCC and the law enforcement community. The committee began planning for the event in earnest in January 2016. All aspects of the event were brought to closure flawlessly.
Bennett’s passion and drive was shared by the ACAMS GTCC. Many hours were spent by Bennett and her team to transform an idea into an event. Such efforts epitomize what ACAMS stands for in building public-private relationships. I am very proud to wave the ACAMS banner. This event reinforced my pride in being associated with ACAMS. For that, I thank the ACAMS GTCC. Here is a shout out to the ACAMS GTCC event committee who ensured this special day was exactly that—a special day. Ryan Montgomery, Angela Jensen, Kami Belchak, Paul Achman, Jennifer O’Donnell, Jessica Kelly, Jenna Willie, Maria Dolor and Ashley Fink, your sweat equity was well worth the effort. Here is a special shout out to Sande Bayer for all she did to support Bennett, the committee and the event.
Their sentiment is mirrored by the entire ACAMS community. What was particularly heartening for Bennett and the planning committee was the genuine enthusiasm and engagement that law enforcement demonstrated in embracing this special event. The ACAMS GTCC experienced firsthand the gratitude from law enforcement for the consideration they gave. At the end of the day, being a law enforcement officer is challenging. Knowing you are appreciated and respected for the difficult and dangerous work you undertake is rewarding. Well done, Minneapolis.