Tenitris McInnis has made history as ATF’s first African American female Certified Fire Investigator (CFI). She has been with ATF since 2015 – dedicating eight years of her life to serving the bureau with excellence. McInnis has also served within ATF as the Violent Crimes Coordinator for the Eastern District of New York, has worked on firearm trafficking cases as part of the Crime Gun Intelligence Group, and has helped with robbery investigations with the Robbery Task Force Group. She is currently working with the Arson and Explosives Group as a CFI.
Growing up with a mother from Mississippi and a father from St. Croix, perseverance and adaptability were two skills taught to McInnis from a young age. She has become a shining example of these important skills throughout her life and career. Starting as a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida, McInnis rose through the ranks and made connections through the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). She was inspired to join ATF after meeting an agent through the organization and seeing the opportunity to fulfill her goals of expanding her career and working large-scale investigations. Through it all, McInnis’ family has been her biggest source of support, providing reassurance and encouragement to continue persevering and doing what makes her happy.
Importance of Diverse Voices in Law Enforcement
When reflecting upon the importance of diverse voices in law enforcement, McInnis recalls Misty Waytes, the first African American female ATF Academy Fire Instructor. McInnis believes she helped trailblaze and create opportunities for new generations to apply and excel in positions that previously lacked diverse representation.
Experiencing a lack of representation around her, McInnis felt she had to prove herself ten times over and convince others of her capability just because of who she is. She found it difficult to find her voice in a room full of people who didn’t look like her – that’s why she believes it’s important for diverse voices to join federal law enforcement. She believes there is a void that, once filled, can create a positive and well-rounded environment that can help limit biases. Diverse environments have a wider range of perspectives that can help produce solutions to better serve communities, as well as improve relatability between law enforcement and the people they protect.
When asked what kind of advice she would give to someone with a similar background hoping to join ATF, McInnis advises to be the change you’d like to see. In terms of what you can accomplish, there is no reason to put yourself in a box.
Reflecting on Women’s History Month
McInnis believes that Women’s History Month is important because it reminds people of the great obstacles women have overcome. She believes this celebration empowers young women to continue moving forward, knowing that they can accomplish anything.