In You Can’t Get Away With It, a short film from 1936 about the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover explained the qualities he was looking for in his agents:
The special agent must be a good marksman and have the courage to shoot it out with the most venomous of public enemies. He must know how to take fingerprints and what to do with them after. He must know that no clue, no matter how seemingly unimportant, can be overlooked. He must have constant before him the fact that science is the bulwark of criminal investigation. And he must realize that no case ever ends for the Federal Bureau of Investigation until it is solved and closed with the conviction of the guilty or the acquittal of the innocent.
Hoover would not have anticipated that the bureau would ever go co-ed—the first women to become special agents did so in 1972, after his death—but his criteria seem to me to be the correct ones to use while evaluating the performance of F.B.I. forensics technician Sheila Paulson, who helped Conan O’Brien crack the case of a missing brisket sandwich on Tuesday. Marvel at the bureau’s methods of scientific crime detection, which are still as new and modern and up-to-the-minute as they were back in Hoover’s day:
First of all, our condolences to the victims of this horrible crime. Now let’s take a look at Paulson’s performance in the field, point by point:
• Good marksman: Unclear.
• The courage to shoot it out with the most venomous of public enemies: Well, for a while there, it looked like Andy Richter was going to open fire, and Paulson didn’t flinch, so we’ll go with yes.
• Know how to take fingerprints: Unclear.
• Knows what to do with fingerprints after: After what? Maybe?
• Knows that no clue, no matter how seemingly unimportant, can be overlooked: I would probably overlook a half-eaten brisket sandwich, but Paulson did not, so that’s a yes.
• Has constant before her the fact that science is the bulwark of criminal investigation: She’s wearing a lab coat, so, definitely.
• Must realize no case ever ends for the blah blah blah: Unclear, until we see if Hank from the control room goes to prison.
So that’s three criteria Paulson definitely meets; three that she might meet, but we won’t know for sure until she’s in a shootout with the most venomous of public enemies and/or takes some fingerprints or sends the brisket thief to prison; and one criterion that is too vague to judge one way or the other. A three out of seven would ordinarily earn Paulson a failing F.B.I. evaluation score of “Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar getting called on the carpet by Bobby Kennedy,” but since the four criteria in which she has not yet demonstrated proficiency are not outright failures but things for which her work on the brisket case did not provide enough evidence one way or the other, we are awarding her the rank of “Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar yelling at a man for having a mustache.” Congratulations to forensic technician Paulson!
So beware, crooks, ne’er-do-wells, and computer-generated brisket sandwich thieves: There’s a new forensic technician in town!