FBI agent doggedly pursues guards in beating death of Alabama inmate

Tuesday - 7/29/2014, 11:14am EDT

Listen to an interview with Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal Finalist Susan Hanson of the FBI on In Depth with Francis Rose.

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In responding to a questionnaire from Federal News Radio (see below), Susan Hanson, a senior resident agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cited her father as her greatest role model.

One of the things Hanson said about him was that "miscarriage of justice angered and saddened him more than any other slight."

Hanson turned back an apparent miscarriage of justice through her dogged investigation into the brutal beating and murder of Alabama inmate Rocrast Mack, in which she faced a lack of cooperation from correctional officers and inmates alike. In the end, her work resulted in the prosecution and conviction of four correctional officers for Mack's death.

"It is a fact that there was a culture of corruption in not just this prison, but the whole Alabama prison system, and a culture that they can do whatever they wanted," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent William Beersdorf. "Through Susan Hanson's thorough investigation and the subsequent prosecution, this case showed that no matter what your status, justice will be served."

Beersdorf described Hanson as a "bulldog" who wouldn't take no for an answer.

"If she ran into an obstacle, she'd go around it and go over it," he said.

For her efforts in bringing to justice four prison guards who beat and murdered an inmate, the Partnership for Public Service recently named Hanson as one of the finalists for the 2014 Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal. The award recognizes federal employees who have made important contributions in the area of homeland security and law enforcement. This includes border and transportation security, civil rights, counterterrorism, emergency response, fraud prevention and intelligence.

Getting to know Susan Hanson

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists five questions about themselves. Here are Hanson's responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Three words that best describe my leadership philosophy are commitment, integrity and compassion

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?
The best words of wisdom I received were on a poster I had in college. It read, "It used to be that when I saw a need, I would say ‘Somebody ought to do something.' Then one day I realized that I am somebody." I believe that is the local version of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address in which he asked Americans to ask what they can do for their country. If we act locally, and humbly, we have the potential to have a positive impact nationally, and perhaps even globally.

Who is your greatest role model and why?
My father was my greatest role model. He was a Korean War veteran and a career educator. He had a tremendous work ethic and a great sense of responsibility to his community and his country. He watched his blood directly transfused to a severely injured squad member during the war, and literally watched his donation save a man's life. He donated over 12 gallons of blood in his lifetime, and established a youth donation program with the high school where he taught and the American Red Cross. He maintained a passion for education and never stopped learning or teaching others. He loved kids and dogs. And he believed that every person deserved justice; miscarriage of justice angered and saddened him more than any other slight.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list? The last books that I have read are textbooks on forensic psychology for my master's degree program. I read author Jon Katz's blog, Bedlam Farm, daily. After I finish my degree, I hope to read Stephen King's Dark Tower series. It will be fun to read for fun again once my degree is complete!

What would be the title of your autobiography and why?
My autobiography would be entitled, "I've Been Blessed!" I have been blessed in my life, first with a wonderful, supportive family, then with an awesome experience serving our country in the United States Army for seven years. My employment with the FBI has been an interesting, challenging opportunity that few people are fortunate enough to experience. The people with whom I served in the Army, and with whom I work now, are an inspiration-truly the best of the best!

The Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.