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Chicago’s New FBI Chief: ‘Honest Government Is Not Optional’

Jeffrey Sallet, who took charge of the Chicago FBI office on Monday, told WBEZ he’ll prioritize gun violence, gang violence, and white-collar crime.

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The FBI flag, center, flies between a U.S. flag and a City of Chicago flag at the FBI building in Chicago, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008.

The FBI flag, center, flies between a U.S. flag and a City of Chicago flag at the FBI building in Chicago, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The FBI office in Chicago has a new boss.

Special agent Jeffrey Sallet, the former head of the FBI’s New Orleans division, now leads a team of 900 people in Chicago. Sallet also worked for the New York and Boston FBI divisions during his 20 years of service, including high-level counterterrorism investigations after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing.

“What have I learned? I’ve learned: Be transparent, communicate, and collaborate,” Sallet told WBEZ on Monday. “And that’s how we keep people safe.”

Below are highlights from Sallet’s conversation with WBEZ’s Melba Lara.

On how the FBI will help reduce gun violence in Chicago

Jeffrey Sallet: First and foremost, it’s not just gun violence. It is violence across the board, meaning gang violence and violence of continuing criminal enterprises. What the FBI does is partner with our state and locals and we will do everything we can to reduce the level of gun violence here in the city.

Public safety is a team effort. It’s something that takes the public to be involved in, it takes law enforcement partnerships, and it takes the business community. It’s everybody’s responsibility.

On fighting white-collar crime and government corruption

Sallet: Chicago is one of the world’s financial centers, so obviously that’s an opportunity for white-collar criminals and folks that are looking to steal. So white-collar crime and all of its subsets are important and will remain important.

My career before I became an FBI special agent was as a forensic accountant, so I have a very, very passionate view of holding white-collar criminals accountable.

Public corruption. Honest government is not optional. It’s something we will work vigorously to ensure is happening. And I can tell you, they’ve been doing it before I got here, and under my leadership it will be a major priority.

On when the FBI would investigate police misconduct

Sallet: Law enforcement priorities for Chicago are going to be violent incident crime and gangs. Obviously, we are at a point that everybody needs to be working as a team to ensure that Chicago is safe for everyone, and that’s in all neighborhoods across the entire city.

And we’re talking about civil rights, obviously making sure that we are holding those accountable for civil rights violations.

That being said, I want to make very clear the FBI is not the shooting review board for police shootings. We have, and I personally have, extreme faith and confidence in the local and state police to conduct their shooting investigations. And just because the police have used deadly force or force does not (mean that equates) to excessive force. Excessive force is when the FBI would get engaged.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button above to hear the entire segment.

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