The Director of the United States Secret Service, James M. Murray, visited Stockton University as a guest speaker on March 22, 2022. Director Murray, a New Jersey native, spoke as part of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences “Criminal Justice Career Series.” Director Murray spoke to an audience of graduate and undergraduate criminal justice students regarding his experience in law enforcement and history in the Secret Service.
Originally from Point Pleasant, NJ, Murray received his Bachelors from the University of Scranton, and his Masters from Seton Hall University. Director Murray began his career as a Special Agent in the Secret Service New York Field Office in 1995. He started investigating cyber-enabled financial crimes and later became part of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Murray was later promoted to the President’s Protection Division in 2001. It was in this role that Murray gained a greater understanding of his role in the Secret Service and the commitment required of him, regardless of his personal or romantic plans. For those who are trying to settle down, a job as a Special Agent for the U.S Secret Service also comes with a downfall: constant travel. Murray’s wife, whom he pointed out in the audience, once kept a calendar of how many days he had been away traveling that year, which tallied over 270 days.
After leaving the President’s Protection Division in 2007, Murray was subsequently promoted in numerous roles, including having served as the Primary Liaison to the U.S. Congress, National Special Security Events Operational Site Supervisor, Resident Agent in Charge of the Secret Service’s Atlantic City Office, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Maryland James J. Rowley Training Center, the Senior Executive Service position of Special Agent in Charge of the Washington D.C. Field Office, and Assistant Director in the Office of Protective Operations. Finally, he was sworn-in as the agency’s director in May 2019.
Murray discussed his professional experiences in detail, noting some important lessons he learned along the way; most notable was his emphasis of the importance of character. “You don’t pass classes based on character. Character is something you build.” He added, “character is not what you do, but how you respond to what happens to you.”
Director Murray also did not shy away from expressing frustrations about his job. The Director noted, “I’ve been in 10 different positions within the Secret Service, and none of them, with the exception of one, were my first choice.”
The Director’s openness came as a pleasant surprise to many audience members. Graduate criminal justice student, Nadia Hayat, stated, “the Director’s character includes a kind of honesty and integrity that I feel lacks in most people in high positions of government.”
Vincent Esher, a graduate criminal justice student, stated, “Director Murray was honest with those in attendance when he highlighted the job, with both the pros and the cons, even when it did not paint him in the best light.”
Towards the end of the event, Director Murray took questions from students, ranging from professional experiences to asking how to become a Secret Service Special Agent. Murray welcomed the enthusiasm from students with budding law enforcement interests, and further stressed to them the importance of character and professionalism. He joked, “its not a recruitment event, but its always a recruitment event. Always be prepared, and don’t be afraid to talk to people.”
Graduate criminal justice students Nadia Hayat and Vincent Esher helped to facilitate the event and were afforded the opportunity to meet Director Murray at the event reception. They reflected on the Director’s character and advice, especially as a New Jersey native.
Nadia Hayat admired his character and honesty, both during and after his speech. “He provided such a realistic perspective when applying for federal jobs and gave me so much insight into the type of jobs I could apply for, even outside of the Secret Service.” Hayat added, “he was incredibly honest on what jobs would not be a good fit for me and was so knowledgeable on the alternatives.”
“The fact that Director Murray is from New Jersey proved to me that with enough hard work, anyone can succeed if they try; and I do believe that this was shared by others in attendance,” Esher stated. “When listening to the Director speak, it was obvious that he was a down-to-Earth guy from Jersey and this made it very easy to relate to him. Director Murray shared many stories from growing up in New Jersey that many students are able to relate to.”
“Overall, after listening to Director Murray speak and having the privilege of meeting with him after the event and have a discussion with him, my decision to apply for the Secret Service was cemented in,” Esher concluded.
Director Murray concluded the event by encouraging interested students to follow their passions and apply. He hopes to increase the Secret Service’s force from 8,000 to 10,000 in the upcoming years across various different positions. These positions include Special Agent, Uniformed Division Officer, Technical Law Enforcement, Administrative, and Professional and Technical. Interested students can learn more about the U.S. Secret Service and prospective careers by visiting their website.