II. BETTER ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROLS COULD INCREASE ADHERENCE WITH FUGITIVE TASK FORCE
Administrative controls over task forces' operations were generally adequate. However, the audit disclosed several areas where controls could be strengthened. The FBI could alleviate these weaknesses through comprehensive and timely internal reviews of individual task forces.
Task Force Monitoring Needs Improvement
Oversight, liaison, and coordination for each task force rests with the local FBI field office's Special Agent in Charge and/or Assistant Special Agent in Charge. The FBI Headquarters Safe Streets Unit is also responsible for performing on-site reviews. According to Bureau officials, these on-site operational reviews would ideally be conducted at 18 month intervals. However, according to unit managers, the small number of the Safe Streets Unit personnel, budget constraints, and the number of task forces in operation limited the Bureau's ability to achieve this goal.
As a supplement to the Safe Streets Unit's reviews, the managers relied on the FBI Inspections Division to review task forces' activities during routine divisional inspections that occur every 3 years. In the interim, to increase the frequency of on-site contacts, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) FBI Coordinators have performed some on-site reviews.
Although the FBI created a means of providing task force oversight without increasing Headquarters staffing levels, we believe the reviews lacked the degree and depth of coverage necessary. The majority of the 22 divisional inspections or OCDETF reports reviewed identified no fugitive task force weaknesses nor recommendations. For instance, the November 1995 on-site review of the El Paso, Texas task force acknowledged that the USMS controlled and housed the task force as noted in Finding I. However, this issue was not cited as a weakness requiring correction. In addition, other administrative lapses had occurred that would benefit from a more comprehensive review process.
Incomplete Case Files - Of 933 official case files reviewed, [For details of our review of official fugitive case files, see Appendix III.] 495 (53 percent) lacked documentation we considered essential for case administration. We defined basic documentation as copies of local warrants, the requests to open preliminary inquiries or federal unlawful flight warrants, and the subjects' criminal histories. In our judgment, these documents comprise the basic information necessary for proper monitoring of task force activity.
Preliminary Inquiries - Guidelines from the Attorney General [Attorney General's Guidelines on Criminal Investigations of Individuals and Organizations , Section I, General Crimes Investigation, subsection A, General Principles] allow the FBI to conduct preliminary inquiries, a process that is less intrusive than a full investigation. The FBI's guidelines state that the task forces are to use this process when the possibility exists that a state or locally wanted fugitive has fled to avoid prosecution or confinement. With respect to fugitive matters, preliminary inquiries can be initially opened for a 90 day period and renewed in 30 day intervals when needed.
Improper Use of Preliminary Inquiries - The FBI Director stated in an October 23, 1995 memorandum that all cases accepted by a fugitive task force shall be opened as a preliminary inquiry or a full investigation. Our review identified three task forces that were functioning outside of the Attorney General's Guidelines and FBI fugitive task force policies.
The preliminary inquiry process was not routinely used in Detroit, Michigan; instead, cases were investigated for a period of approximately 30 days. At that time, if no arrest had been made, a determination would be made to obtain an unlawful flight warrant or to close the case administratively. No preliminary inquiry was opened in 22 of 50 official case files examined.
Officials in St. Louis, Missouri indicated that investigative work, to establish the possibility of flight, was often performed before opening preliminary inquiries. The February 13, 1995 divisional inspection reported this weakness; however, adequate corrective action was not taken.
The Denver, Colorado task force opened preliminary inquiries after the fugitives were arrested in 24 of 34 closed case files reviewed.
Improper Documentation of Preliminary Inquiries - Of 933 official case files reviewed, 62 preliminary inquiries had expired and no extension or explanation was in the file. Furthermore, eight [Mobile, Alabama; Denver, Colorado; Tampa, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas, Nevada; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and El Paso, Texas.] task forces used boilerplate language in the requests to open preliminary inquiries. This is inconsistent with the Director's instructions dated June 15, 1994, stipulating that boilerplate language is inadequate because each case must stand on its own merit.
We recommend that the Director, FBI:
6. Instruct the Headquarters Safe Streets Unit Managers to develop and implement a schedule to perform comprehensive reviews of individual fugitive task forces within the next 2 years. Task forces not reviewed in detail by the OIG should be given priority.
7. Revise all on-site review guides to include a section for determining each task force's compliance with FBI fugitive task force guidelines. This should specifically address the use of preliminary inquiries and case file documentation.