ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s been 51 years since the FBI first welcomed female agents. agents.
Today, the Bureau is still a male-dominated agency but women continue to fill important roles and make meaningful contributions.
“It’s important for people to see me, especially those who look like me,” FBI Administrative Officer Lavonda Locke said.
Eight years ago, Locke became the first AA Administrative Officer for the FBI in Buffalo. She’s the fourth highest ranking official in Western New York.
Locke supervises 130 professional employees in offices that include Rochester. When speaking to others about her job and the many careers available in the FBI she stresses not every employee carries a gun or a badge.
“So, funny story, my undergrad is in forensic science,” Locke said.
27 years ago, the Buffalo native began her FBI career as an evidence tech.
“Part of the evidence response team, I went to NYC during 9/11 working 10-hour shifts,” Locke said. “It was a tough time. It was a rewarding time to know the work you were doing to make a difference.”
The 9/11 terrorist attack compelled Sandra Berchtold to leave her job as an environmental engineer.
“At that point it was like am I really making an impact,” Berchtold said.
In 2001, Berchtold says the military told her she was too old to go to war. The 35-year-old then heard the FBI was hiring and applied.
In two years, when she turns 57, this supervisory special agent in Rochester says she’ll once again be told she’s too old, this time by The Bureau — but she says she’ll retire knowing she’s made a huge impact.
“Through the years some of the cases I’ve worked I’ve really enjoyed putting people away in jail for doing things that they shouldn’t be doing,” Berchtold said.
In nearly 20 years, she’s worked in multiple field offices helping to catch criminals who stole billions in healthcare fraud, and more recently those who committed pandemic loan fraud.
Her work on behalf of kids who have been abducted, trafficked, or sexually exploited brings her the greatest satisfaction.
She recalls a pimp she helped put away for 25 years, and one of the young girl she rescued from prostitution.
“I went to her jury court appearance when the judge asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said an FBI agent so what more can I ask for?,” Berchtold said.
Both women are mentors who maintain working for the FBI can be both physically and emotionally draining. They add they’ve had an amazing career and encourage others to consider joining the FBI.