In commemoration of March as National Women’s History Month, we found some time to connect with five leaders here at Hillard Heintze who are women and asked them about their perspective on their careers and their views on women and their role in advancing our purpose: protecting what matters here in the U.S. and worldwide.
Hillard Heintze Vice President Diane Ragans works extensively with the firm’s Law Enforcement Consulting and Security Risk Management practices. As an experienced criminal intelligence practitioner, auditor and program manager, she is adept at planning and evaluating law enforcement agencies’ core operations and practices through the lens of established and emerging best practices in criminal intelligence and law enforcement and has worked in this field for over 30 years.
Diane, let’s start off with learning about why you entered the law enforcement sector?
When I was young I really admired police officers. I thought they were the coolest, and I developed a keen interest in why people commit crimes. I initially wanted to be an FBI agent but when I learned how frequently they move during their career, I quickly changed my mind because I didn’t want to move around too much.
Later in life I attended Florida State University after getting a two-year degree at Central Florida Community College. I had a professor who mentored me and took the time to help me determine my career goals. As a result I became interested in crime intelligence analysis.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I first interned at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and I was hired right before graduation as a crime technologist. I became a crime analyst shortly after and then an analyst supervisor. I worked in the Florida Intelligence Center and our intel files were index cards – this was before we had fax machines! I ultimately spent 18 years at FDLE working in different areas of the department including investigations and forensics, inspections, performance-based budgeting, accreditation, and CJIS. I gained invaluable experience which I have drawn upon throughout my career.
It was at FDLE that I learned the importance of building and fostering relationships. In my early years as an analyst we did not have automated systems for data checks and we would have to make phone calls to different agencies, often in other states to gather data, and knowing who to call that could help or point you in the right direction was an important part of that job.
I loved it – digging into different things and connecting the dots to identify someone or link them to a crime. I still have that interest to “investigate” things I come across and my husband often calls me Mrs. Kravitz because I’m “nosy” about things in our neighborhood.
After 9/11, I worked for the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, a nonprofit in Tallahassee which conducts research and training for local, state and tribal law enforcement agencies. At IIR, I was part of a team that developed the National Criminal Information Sharing Plan (NCISP). Multiple federal agencies worked together toward a common goal.
It was during my time supporting the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC) and the Global Justice Intelligence Sharing Initiative, which is a Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to the Attorney General, that I met Ken Bouche our Chief Operating Officer here at Hillard Heintze. At the time he was with the Illinois State Police and he chaired Global and the CICC. Our work back then was essentially changing the face of law enforcement agencies and how they could best work with agencies at the federal level. We worked together with federal partners to develop several national-level programs including the National Network of Fusion Centers and the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI).
Before all that, Diane, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I can’t tell you. Well ok. (Laughing) I originally wanted to be a witch. I loved the show Bewitched! And you can print that. (Laughing again). Seriously though, I was raised in a pizza parlor where lots of cops would come in and talk about their day. I wanted to be a police officer or investigator, like them. So I never got as far as getting a broom or pointy hat or anything!
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’d say being involved with the development of the NCISP and working with fusion centers, law enforcement, and homeland security personnel to make sure a situation like 9/11 never occurs again. On a more personal level, I’m proud of my leadership skills and setting an example. I really enjoy mentoring people and having a positive influence. Everyone has teaching moments, and learning after the fact that I made an impact on someone is very rewarding to me.
What is your current role and skillset at Hillard Heintze?
I work as a senior project manager and subject-matter expert — both in law enforcement consulting and security risk management — for complex projects supporting clients such as Major League Baseball and the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office.
We work in an intensely collaborative team environment that depends on what every member of the team brings to the table. Relationships built on trust are critically important in our area of work. Ultimately the clients, and your team members, have to trust you. I’d rather work with someone I know I can trust than someone who may have more qualifications.
What advice do you have for young women starting out in their careers?
Working as a non-sworn person with a lot of sworn personnel was difficult at times, and law enforcement was — and still is — made up predominantly of men.
Early in my career I served on a team traveling statewide gathering data on criminal investigations. During this time a senior member of the team sexually harassed me. Thankfully there were corroborating witnesses and the charges were sustained, resulting in his suspension. I learned from my female co-workers that he had done this to other women who hadn’t said anything. Later I was told by the investigators that it would have been a “she said he said situation” and, without the witnesses, the charges might not have been sustained against him. That was incredibly frustrating to me.
I want to tell women you don’t have to take this. A lot of women may be worried about losing their job if put in a similar situation, but this experience gave me the confidence to stand up for myself. And it’s not just because you’ve been sexually harassed: women need to know they can change their situation.
For more advice for young women, and any interested professionals, Diane recommends the book “Presence” by Amy Cuddy. You can also watch Cuddy’s TED Talk, “Your body language may shape who you are,” here.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.