Keith Slotter, the photogenic and charismatic special agent in charge of the San Diego FBI office, is moonlighting as a TV guy. Again.
A little more than a year after he was the star of a two-hour Discovery Channel documentary, Inside the FBI, for which he granted unprecedented access to cameras during investigations of kidnappings, drug cartels and the Mexican Mafia prison gang, Slotter is back in front of the lens, this time for a local version of America’s Most Wanted.
“It’s the first time it’s FBI-centric, so it’s very cool,” Slotter said.
The first 15-minute pre-taped episode airs July 3 at 10:30 p.m. on Fox 5, following the news, and will continue to run every subsequent Saturday night. Like John Walsh, host of the national version, Slotter will describe five or six local fugitives and their crimes in hopes that tips will come and captures will be made.
“The main reason we’re doing it is to catch fugitives,” Slotter said during a recent interview. “Hopefully it comes across in a professional manner and goes well. That’s what we’re striving for and hopefully that’s the way it’s perceived.”
Slotter said it took some on-set coaching to achieve just the right delivery.
“I have a lot of good friends at Fox,” Slotter said. “They put me through the rigors on the first day to get me up to speed. Since then it’s been going pretty smoothly. It hasn’t been bad at all. I get a lot of practice.”
Slotter is easily the most visible local FBI chief in recent memory. He’s well known within San Diego’s federal law enforcement community for lacking that media-averse trait that is almost universal among FBI agents. While there are plenty of people who like his style, less enthusiastic observers have said Slotter loves the spotlight a little too much. Some said they were particularly appalled by his decision to let cameras observe secret operations.
At the time, Slotter told NBC San Diego he agreed to allow the crews in for educational reasons. “We gave them access to a lot of things you wouldn’t normally see and I think because of that the viewers will get some real insight on how the FBI works,” he said.
“It’ll be, I hope, enlightening, at least a bit clearer on the issues border cities like San Diego face,” Slotter said.
Of course, reporters, camera crews and producers around the county applauded the openness. They were delighted that even if it weren’t offered to them, at least somebody got a glimpse into the ultra-secretive agency.
There was at least some backlash. An FBI informant who was featured in the documentary said in an interview with 10News she was over-exposed as a result, and was in grave danger from the Mexican Mafia. She told the TV station the FBI and documentary producers jeopardized her life by revealing too much, like repeatedly showing pictures of her cars and her home.
Slotter said the most-wanted show is all about getting the job done. He said FBI offices in Seattle, Denver and Atlanta also have regionalized versions of a most-wanted show. The local Fox station came to him and proposed the idea, he said, and he is excited about the possiblities.
“I really liked the idea,” he said.
(Update: The date of the show’s first airing has been changed since we first published. This article has been updated to reflect that.)
— KELLY THORNTON