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Take Five: Roland J. Corvington, special agent charge of St. Louis division of the FBI

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 25, 2009 - Roland J. Corvington is doing his third tour of duty in St. Louis.

The first came when he worked in private security after earning a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in law enforcement administration from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill.

The second came between February 2005 and August 2007, when he was special agent in charge of the FBI's St. Louis division. He left that post to move to FBI headquarters in Washington as assistant director of the bureau's security division.

Now, he's back in his old post as special agent in charge in St. Louis, where he took over last week. He has spent much of his early time back here getting acquainted with various task forces set up with other law enforcement agencies. The St. Louis office of the FBI covers eastern Missouri with satellite locations in Kirksville, St. Charles, Rolla and Cape Girardeau.

He also has served with the bureau in various positions in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

Corvington, 49, who is from Chicago, lives here with his wife and three children; he said he did not want to specify where. He talked with the Beacon about the FBI's priorities, nationally and locally, how the bureau has changed since he was last here and why he likes living in St. Louis.

What are the priorities of the bureau, nationally and in St. Louis?

Corvington: The national priorities have been established by our director, and those haven't changed. They include terrorism, foreign intelligence and espionage, cyber-crime, particularly related to counterterrorism, public corruption, civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and violent crime.

For the St. Louis division, the priorities are going to be international terrorism, counter intelligence, gangs, public corruption, mortgage fraud, health-care fraud, securities and commodities fraud, organized crime, crimes against children, computer intrusion, civil rights, violent crime and domestic terrorism.

We do have an order to them, but depending on the circumstances, things can bubble up as a priority. A good example would be a child abduction case that may require resources being deployed to track that issue at that time.

Public corruption cases have been big news around here lately, with legislators pleading guilty and leaving office. Your predecessor indicated there were more cases to come. What do you expect in that area?

Corvington: Public corruption is always a concern. In fact nationally, FBI investigations and cooperation with our partners have resulted in 1,600 convictions nationwide. It's still a concern, and I still hope and expect that those who may be aware of corrupt activities would contact the FBI.

We're only as effective as the public allows us to be. I don't say that tongue in cheek. There should be a high expectation for the FBI on the part of the public, and a high level of confidence. But we still rely on the cooperation of those outside the FBI to help us accomplish our mission objectives.

What did you learn in your job at FBI headquarters that will help in your return to St. Louis?

Corvington: In every experience, you learn and take things away about how to better address problems and interact with subordinate managers, contractors, task forces and officers to achieve your mission, I think my experience clearly has caused me to evolve as a better manager. My scope was substantially larger as an assistant director, so it prompted me to do things a little differently, to better connect with my staff. I had 1,000 personnel full-time and about 1,500 part-time, which is larger than the footprint here, where there are a couple of hundred agents and support personnel.

How has the FBI changed since you left here in 2007 to go to the bureau's headquarters in Washington?

Things have changed significantly with respect to the way we collect and process intelligence information, particularly because of the deployment of automation. It's made it easier in some instances and has caused changes that have required a lot of training for our employees in computer software and how information is handled and managed.

What's it like being back in St. Louis?

It has evolved, and evolved for the better. I've moved around a lot with the FBI, and St. Louis remains my favorite city. The quality of life is outstanding. It's easy to live here.

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.