A career in public service is a noble thing to choose. Especially for law enforcement officers, the work can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. Luckily, there are thousands of individuals who take their sense of courage and commitment to duty, and use it to fulfill the many federal law enforcement roles needed to keep our nation safe.
A small percentage of these “FLEOs” (about 15%) today are women. These women are equally as qualified and competent as their male colleagues. However, they may be owed a bit more credit; as not only do they serve the people in a law enforcement role, but they do so in a space where they are likely to be one of just a few of their gender in any given situation.
The Women In Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) organization does all that it can year-round to support and uplift females in Federal Law Enforcement roles. It also provides an annual award ceremony, to recognize and share some of their accomplishments.
Among the women recognized this year is Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Caroline O’Brien-Buster of the U.S. Secret Service; recipient of a 2021 WIFLE Public Service Award, and someone truly dedicated to helping others.
A history of accomplishment
SAC Caroline O’Brien-Buster has worked for the Secret Service for 23 years; three of those at her current office. Under her leadership, Caroline and her current team accomplished her initial five-year plan – in just two years.
In 2020, they tripled arrests and seizures, grew their cyber-security taskforce, and were able to help their local community overall more than any other past year in history for the office.
They are active in talking to, meeting with, and educating the community around how to protect themselves from scams and fraud. Agents talk at schools, local gatherings, and other places to help people avoid becoming victims.
The first person in her family to choose a career in law enforcement, Caroline always felt a drive to help people. Initially joining her local Sheriffs’ department right after graduating college, she was one of just two female ‘street cops’ in her area.
But Caroline has never thought of things in terms of gender, never looked at her job as being a ‘female law officer’. She is simply there to do the work to the best of her own abilities.
It’s evident that she is more than able to do whatever she commits to, with great success.
“My whole career; I’ve loved every minute of it… I’ve never gone home from work and felt I didn’t make a difference that day.” – Caroline O’Brien-Buster
Giving, and giving more
Caroline is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others, and a hard worker no matter what the job. She expresses a deep sense of importance in being truthful and kind. In holding strong ethics and values, and never compromising in them.
Her career history demonstrates that she indeed stands by these principals. She works to do good for others, without any personal agenda in mind.
You hear the genuine care in her voice when Caroline shares her favorite parts of the role. First and foremost, she loves the effect that she and her team have on the community. Whether helping partners like the local police departments; educating the local public; or working cases themselves.
She also spoke of her teammates. Whether senior or junior to her, new to the force or seasoned agents, Caroline clearly holds deep appreciation and respect for them all.
“I’ve got an incredible group of people here,” she says. “All workers, all go-getters… [They’re also] very involved in the community.”
And while a leader in the agency, she stays involved. “If they [the agents] are out there, I’m out there.”
When it comes to the harder parts of the job? For her personally, it’s more of a “good challenge”: pushing yourself to always do better, to be a problem-solver.
Ultimately, she says; “I’ve never once not wanted to go into work, not one day.”
A community of strong women
While Caroline has never felt held back at work for being female, she still strongly values the community and support of women – a big part of why she is a member of Women In Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE).
Caroline has been a WIFLE member her entire federal career. In her time with the group, she has found it to be a great resource, and met “so many incredible women.”
The learning experiences and ideas shared are valuable. The networking and friendships with people who have something in common with you, and the sense of empowerment you can gain from it are invaluable. Groups like WIFLE create the perfect environment for building these.
In and outside of the organization, Caroline also makes a point of doing what she can to elevate others herself – and specifically, other women in the field.
In her experience, most women in federal agencies are like-minded to her: do your job and do it well, without worrying about potential gender-related setbacks. Still, it remains a fact that women are greatly outnumbered by men in law enforcement careers. And there is always importance in women supporting each other.
So, she seeks out women who have potential to be part of the next group of leaders. She shares opportunities that women may not have known about – or dismissed for themselves. Because she recognizes the importance, she offers guidance and mentorship wherever she can. And it’s thanks to things like this that the number of women in jobs like hers will grow.
Giving – and getting – it all
Statistically, most women never even consider joining law enforcement as an option. The issue is not that they are often discouraged or excluded; they simply don’t try.
People offer multiple reasons. They worry it’s too dangerous. They assume they can’t have children or a family and also do the job. And these are fair concerns. But there are so many possibilities and different jobs available within federal agencies. And “of course you can have kids,” Caroline says. “You can do anything!”
Today, Caroline is living in her home state, helping her own community, and working in a job she loves. “I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have a position like this,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to do more…everywhere I’ve gone I’ve just always worked hard,” and well-deserved opportunities have followed.
It seems that being such a giving person helps to attract good things to the giver as well. SAC Caroline O’Brien-Buster is doing well, though focusing so much on those around her, rather than on herself. She is truly a model of leadership and kindness, and an asset to her team and her community; as her WIFLE award confirms.
At the end of the day, she says, it’s not about you. It’s about the people who needed you. It’s about how you made things better, even for just one person.
Certainly, this federal agent has made things better for many people throughout her career.
Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit WrightUSA.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.