Toni Marie Chrabot served as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for more than 20 years. During her career she held a number of investigative, training, supervisory and field executive management positions.
Her most recent position was as an Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Office. Over five years as Assistant Special Agent in Charge she was responsible for oversight and management of criminal investigations, intelligence, cyber, crisis management, and administrative programs. Her prior assignments were in Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.
As a field agent, Toni investigated matters involving public corruption, civil rights, computer intrusion, organized crime, kidnapping, and a variety of fraud schemes. She was certified as an FBI crisis negotiator in 1997 and thereafter was involved in negotiating several incidents to resolution. Some of the most widely covered incidents included a bank takeover in Lowell, Indiana in September 2001; a stand off at Constitution Gardens in Washington, D.C. in March 2003; the kidnapping of an 88 year old woman from Racine, Wisconsin in February 2003; and the disappearance of a woman in Ponte Vedra, Florida in September 2009. Toni appeared on Dateline NBC’s September 2011 Season Premier episode titled “Ransom,” which covered the Ponte Vedra investigation.
Toni served as a supervisory special agent negotiator and later as an instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI Academy trains new agent candidates, intelligence analysts, and law enforcement executives from around the world. While at the academy, Toni was designated a subject matter expert in interview and interrogation, and also taught other communication concepts. During her career Toni traveled on assignment to provide instruction and training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary, the Royal Swaziland Police, and she supported international investigative efforts in Ottawa Canada, in the aftermath of 9/11.
Toni earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Michigan State University and a Masters of Education from the University of Virginia. She also attended Scotland Yard’s Crisis Negotiation Certification Course, the Northwestern Kellogg School Executive Seminar on Leading Strategic Change and Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation. Toni recently retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after what she describes as a ‘fantastic career.’ She resides with her husband and family in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement?
I played a lot of ‘cops and robbers’ as a child growing up in a rural area, and I saw a movie about two female FBI agents in training.
Since you joined the FBI, has the culture of the FBI become more female-friendly?
The FBI is over 100 years old and steeped in tradition and it was an all male agent organization until 1972, but once female agents started getting hired, it was clear the FBI saw the value of diversity, so I wouldn’t say the FBI was unfriendly as an agency.
In any organization there may be lingering attitudes and individual or small group resistance to change, but it takes time to change a culture, and the fact that women make up approximately 20% of the agent workforce now is a good thing. Hopefully those numbers will grow.
What are some of the challenges you faced as a female Federal Agent?
A definite challenge for me as a woman generally was balancing the job and family, and then of course, like every other agent, I was at varying times challenged by assignments, long hours, and dealing with difficult situations most people are never exposed to.
How did you move through the challenges and walk boldly each day?
I trained just like every other agent, so I knew I possessed the knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job well. I tried to learn as much as I could, and always add value to whatever job, role or position I was assigned and I had a good support system of family and friends who had tremendous respect for the FBI and the job I was doing
You’re a mom – what are the lessons you have tried to pass on to your children above all others?
You are capable of more than you think you are, and you will learn that if you take some risks and go outside your comfort zone
Be kind to others.
Show respect for others and yourself.
Who are the women you have you looked up to as a role model in your career and life? What are the characteristics you most admire in those women?
My mom – she always told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and I believed her. She was also a widow with four children at the age of 39. I realized the importance of having a means to support myself and my family.
Actually, a former male colleague’s ability to always keep things in perspective most inspired me in my career. I really admired and was motivated by his ability to remain objective and optimistic.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
“When you stop banging your head against the wall, it won’t hurt so much.” Meaning: whether it be a bad day, a bad situation, or a conflict within the workplace; you have to let it go and then you can truly move forward.
The other great piece of advice was this: “You can not be anybody other than who you are.”