By Rob Gwin
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Office of Public Affairs
ARTESIA, NM - January 17, 2024, marked exactly one year since Rachel Smith started her journey as an Attorney Advisor Instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers’ (FLETC) Legal Division in Artesia, New Mexico.
Along with three other attorneys in her division, Smith teaches classes on the United States Criminal Justice System, including the Fourth and Fifth Amendment and Federal Criminal Law, to FLETC basic training students as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Roswell, NM.
Though Smith had extensive teaching experience prior to arriving at FLETC, she feels like she’s still learning new techniques to best engage her students.
“I love being in the classroom with the students,” Smith says. “I love seeing those lightbulb moments, you know, when they get it or when you’ve explained something a different way and ‘now’ they get it.”
The feedback from her students helps Smith determine if or when she needs to adjust her presentation approach or style.
“Our Fourth Amendment class is 24-hours of instruction, and probably what I’ve taught the most.” Smith explains, “It’s my favorite thing to teach, I’m kind of a search and seizure buff,” she laughs. “I remember one of the students said to me ‘this was the easiest class I think I’ve taken.’” This is the kind of feedback Smith thrives on because she knows her teaching style is working.
“The fact that he understood it that well,” Smith continued, “that he thought it was ‘really easy,’ I was really pleased with. I love that.”
“I remember being out there one day in shorts and a baseball cap,” she recalls, “watching a vehicle search scenario and giving feedback, and I’m thinking to myself, I’m outside giving future law enforcement officers instruction on how to search vehicles. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
What Smith and other attorneys in her division do is critically essential to the foundational training of federal law enforcement students in the realm of criminal law and how it applies to them.
“Something like search and seizure, they’re going to think about that every day,” she says, “and this is every agency, whether you’re working at the White House or you’re working in Indian Country or you’re working at a military base, so I think making sure they have that strong foundation is really essential.”
Smith says she’s happy being an instructor for now, but with an eye toward the future she is open to making more contributions to FLETC’s mission if opportunities present themselves.
“This job has given me a more varied skillset, so maybe in the future I would consider a leadership position, but I am happy in my division instructing right now.”