Newly retired FBI leader followed in father's footprints
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — As a child, Ken Porter remembers thinking how cool it was that his dad had a badge and a gun.
His father worked for the FBI and Porter liked playing with his handcuffs. One Sunday morning when Porter was 7, he ended up accidentally locking his ankles together with the cuffs. His father had the key to free him, but he had already left for church.
Porter said his mother had no alternative but to take him to church — still wearing his pajama bottoms and legs shackled — and find his father to unlock him.
Despite the slight embarrassment, that incident did not deter Porter from following in his father's footsteps. He admired how his father worked with different types of people everyday and how he worked to protect both his community and the country.
This week, Porter will retire from the FBI after nearly three decades of service. It's been a career that has taken him around the globe. He is currently the assistant special agent-in-charge at the FBI's Salt Lake City field office. And while he said there are parts of his job that include "periods of sheer excitement," the majority of his job has included tasks like sorting through bank records and other paper trails rather than breaking down doors.
"We're your neighbors. We go to the same schools your kids go to, shop at the same stores you shop at. We're regular members of the community. We're not Jack Bauer where it's 24 hours (nonstop action)."
Yet, when asked to talk about some of the standout moments of his career, a smile comes across Porter's face as his mind starts going over all that he has been involved with, and he admits it's hard to limit his standout moments to just one or two incidents.
"It's not a boring job," he said.
One moment that comes to the top of his mind was when Porter was stationed in South Africa. In 1975 his father, who worked in the FBI's San Francisco Bureau, was involved in investigating the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Nearly three decades later, in 2002, Porter received a call to investigate whether James Kilgore — the last outstanding fugitive of the SLA — was living in Cape Town. He was wanted on federal explosives charges. After some investigating, Porter found Kilgore and arrested the last remaining fugitive from the Hearst case.
"It was good to see justice finally done," he said.
Sadly, Porter's father did not get to see his son's remarkable career.
On Aug. 9, 1979, when Porter was 16, his father, J. Robert Porter, and his partner were killed in a gun battle while on duty at the FBI's El Centro Office near San Diego. Today, the senior Porter can be found on the FBI's Wall of Honor, the department's new multimedia platform for honoring agents killed in the line of duty.
Porter knew he wanted to be an FBI agent, and his father's death didn't deter that dream. His mother also remained supportive of his goals.
Porter was born in Arizona, served an LDS mission to Venezuela and studied political science at BYU and Arizona State. During his FBI career, Porter has been stationed in Florida, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and Phoenix. He has been assigned to work everything from bank robberies to international terrorism to gangs.
As he leaves office, he sees the cyber world as providing some of the biggest threats to citizens from fraud to child pornography.
Porter, who has a wife and four children, said despite his family's affection for Arizona, they've fallen in love with the mountains of Utah and plan to stay here after he retires from the FBI. Porter also has another job already lined up: he'll start working with the LDS Church Security Department in January.
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