Zinnia James, an Iraq veteran and longtime criminal investigator with the Department of Defense, has been appointed as the first Hispanic woman to serve as a special agent in charge in the Coast Guard Investigative Service. James will lead six CGIS Resident Agent Offices overseeing an area of 1.7 million square miles, including Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and 34 foreign nations and territories.
“I am thrilled to be able to appoint Zinnia to this SAC position,” said Michael Berkow, CGIS director, in a prepared statement. “She has been outstanding in the Miami office and the combination of her law enforcement experience, her education, professional work and the past two years as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Miami made her a natural for this position. She is a fantastic leader, well respected by the men and women she leads, and we are confident that she will be an outstanding senior leader for CGIS.”
James has held a variety of investigative, operational and management positions throughout her career. She first joined the U.S. Air Force in 2002 as a military special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. James was the Air Force recipient of the 2011 prestigious National Latina Symposium’s Meritorious Service in the Global War on Terror Award for exceptional valor demonstrated during combat while she was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.
She served two tours in Iraq and Kuwait respectively during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2012, James transitioned to civil service into the violent crime division of the Department of Defense Inspector General Office where she led oversight reviews of defense criminal investigative organizations’ major violent criminal investigations, and wrote policy in the area of sexual assault, crimes against children, and death investigations.
During this tenure, she also served as the DOD representative on the Federal Agency Task Force on missing and exploited children, whose mission is to coordinate Federal resources for missing and exploited children.
“I am very humbled to have been selected to lead CGIS’ largest investigative region,” said James. “We will continue to take on a proactive approach to our mission and remain fully committed in our continuous service as our region’s premiere maritime law enforcement agency.”
James received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami in communications and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in human relations. She also holds a master’s certificate in program management from George Washington University. In 2013, James served as an adjunct professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., teaching an undergraduate course in criminology within the Department of Criminology, Law and Society. She is also a 2017 graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
James replaces Thomas Robarge who retired in April 2018 after nearly 30 years of service in the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Investigative Service is a federal investigative and protective program established to carry out the Coast Guard's internal and external criminal investigations; to assist in providing personal security services; to protect the welfare of Coast Guard people; to aid in preserving the internal integrity of the Coast Guard; and to support Coast Guard missions worldwide. The service is a force of approximately 90 active duty military and civilian special agents and 150 special agents who are members of the Coast Guard Reserve.