Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crime Task Forces
Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-004
Office of the Inspector General
In a written response dated March 26, 2007, EOUSA provided formal comments to the OIG’s report. In addition, as noted above, in a memorandum dated March 23, 2007, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General concurred with the report’s four recommendations on behalf of the Department.
In its response, EOUSA agreed that greater coordination between and among the components’ task forces results in more efficient use of federal resources and further reduces the risk of a blue-on-blue incident. With regard to the report’s specific findings, EOUSA’s comments addressed eight issues.
U.S. Attorney Coordination of Task Force Investigations
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA commented that the report understates the limits on the ability of U.S. Attorneys to coordinate task force investigations. EOUSA pointed out that the U.S. Attorneys do not control the personnel and resources of ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the USMS.
OIG Analysis. With regard to the assertion that the report overstates the ability of U.S. Attorneys to coordinate task force investigations, we note with agreement a statement made by the Office of Deputy Attorney General in response to this report (Appendix III):
The United States Attorneys are in a unique position - even without direct authority over other federal law enforcement components - to assess and, if necessary, address any coordination concerns arising from the operation of multiple violent crime task forces in their districts. As your report recognizes, in some districts they are doing so effectively.
Tension Among Components
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA observed that our report includes anecdotes derived from “conversations with investigative agents regarding the activities of other investigative agencies” and that “it is not clear if all sides of the issue are fully presented.” EOUSA expressed concern that the format of our report “may lend itself to the possibility of causing tension” between the components.
OIG Analysis. We believe that the report provides a balanced presentation regarding the level of cooperation among the components. The report discusses specific law enforcement events and provides perspectives from the participants in those events. During our review, we interviewed 234 officials involved in task force operations, including:
Based on those interviews, we reported specific law enforcement events that were examples of effective coordination or the lack thereof. For example, the report’s descriptions of blue-on-blue incidents were based on the information provided to us by the Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and local task force members actually involved in the incidents.
We also presented these descriptions to all of the components involved in a working draft and asked them to comment on accuracy. When the components supplied additional information on specific coordination issues, we assessed the additional information, compared it with information provided by the other components, and included relevant portions in our descriptions. We then provided all the components with a formal draft of this report and requested that they provide written comments on the issues presented. We included all of the formal comments provided by the components in this final report. Consequently, we believe that we have made reasonable efforts to ensure that our report provides all sides of the issues.
The OIG acknowledges EOUSA’s concern that some statements Special Agents and Deputy Marshals made about other components may cause tensions between the components. However, we believe the use of specific comments and opinions of the task force participants was essential to illustrate coordination issues. Moreover, the tensions that EOUSA is concerned about already exist, as we found in our field work. Our report includes recommendations to improve coordination, which, if followed, should reduce tensions among the components.
U.S. Attorney Coordination of Fugitive Investigations
Summary of the EOUSA Response. The EOUSA stated that the U.S. Attorneys tend to have less involvement with the coordination of fugitive investigations than they do with investigations of an “unfolding criminal case.” EOUSA noted that 77 percent of the duplicate arrests we cited in our report were fugitive investigations. Further, EOUSA commented that the report does not make clear how many of the duplicate fugitive investigations involved state rather than federal charges.
OIG Analysis. We agree that U.S. Attorneys’ Offices tend to be more involved with criminal cases than with fugitive investigations. However, the U.S. Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer in each district and has authority to seek the federal warrants that the FBI must obtain to apprehend state fugitives under federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution statutes. Accordingly, we recommended that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the components’ task force managers in each jurisdiction with multiple violent crime task forces implement guidance for coordinating task force operations. The EOUSA comment that the report does not identify how may of the federal fugitive investigations were based on state charges is not material because the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are responsible for ensuring that federal task forces coordinate all of their fugitive investigations, as made clear in the Deputy Attorney General’s May 11, 2007, memorandum.
Coordinated Anti-Gang Task Force Efforts in Spokane and Tulsa
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA stated that notwithstanding the FBI’s initially uncoordinated efforts in Spokane and coordination problems in Tulsa, the U.S. Attorneys in both cities believe that coordination has significantly improved.
OIG Analysis. We accept, but have not independently verified, EOUSA’s report of recent cooperation by the FBI in a local anti-gang task force in Spokane and the resolution of coordination problems in Tulsa. Notwithstanding any recent improvements, during the time period examined in this review we found coordination issues in both cities, and we reported on these issues and made recommendations for improvement.
Delays Caused by Coordination Issues in Reading
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA commented that the report overstates the delay in task force operations resulting from conflict involving deployment of a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading, Pennsylvania, and understates the DEA’s coordination efforts in that city. In addition, EOUSA said that deconfliction efforts worked well in the Reading deployment.
OIG Analysis. As noted above, in response to additional information provided by the DEA, we deleted the discussion related to delays in task force operations from the report. Regarding EOUSA’s comments that we understated the DEA’s coordination efforts in Reading and that deconfliction efforts worked well, an Assistant U.S. Attorney reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had to mediate several meetings involving the DEA, the FBI, and ATF to determine how federal targets of the Reading Mobile Enforcement Team deployment would be deconflicted. In the report, we also noted that individual DEA and FBI task force operations were deconflicted by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office rather than by direct communication between the DEA and the FBI.
Task Force Operations in Las Vegas
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA stated that our report of tensions between the FBI and DEA in Las Vegas is “not helpful” because the components are “currently working well together,” the leadership of all the components’ field offices in Las Vegas has changed since our site visits, and the overall tenor of the report’s discussion of Las Vegas does not correspond to the “facts on the ground now.” EOUSA also commented that the report is “somewhat misleading” because a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team is not currently operating in Las Vegas.
OIG Analysis. We believe the description of events we presented is accurate. The report reflected the situation in the Las Vegas field offices during the time period encompassed by our review as reported to the OIG by Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, local HIDTA officials, and local law enforcement officials. We have not independently assessed the improvements that EOUSA asserted have been made since the conclusion of our field work.
ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and FBI Safe Streets Task Force Operations in Atlanta
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA stated that the report juxtaposes quotes from ATF and the FBI that appear to overstate the duplication of effort by the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and the multiple FBI Safe Streets Task Forces in Atlanta. EOUSA stated that the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team is focused on the city of Atlanta where there are few gangs, while only one of the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces operates in Atlanta and instead focuses mostly on areas outside the city limits.
OIG Analysis. We disagree with EOUSA’s assessment that the report overstates the degree of duplication of effort by the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and the multiple FBI Safe Streets Task Forces in Atlanta. Our interviews with ATF and FBI Special Agents revealed a significant mission overlap and a lack of coordination between the task forces. Regarding EOUSA’s statement that the task forces operate in different geographic areas, although the task forces may focus on different areas, their operations overlap in some cases. For example, the Coordinator of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in Atlanta told us that the FBI has an active Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act investigation of a gang in Atlanta and that the ATF is also investigating members of the same gang in Atlanta.
Inclusion of Birmingham in the Coordination Analysis
Summary of the EOUSA Response. EOUSA stated that the report’s discussion of task force coordination efforts in Birmingham should be clarified because the OIG reviewed data from FY 2003 through FY 2005 and Birmingham had only one national task force in operation at the close of FY 2005. EOUSA also stated that our finding that “task forces in Birmingham are the least well coordinated seems primarily based on anecdotal worries of future overlap rather than historical evidence.”
OIG Analysis. A USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force was created in Birmingham during our review. After six site visits to cities with three or more task forces, we asked the components to recommend additional cities for inclusion in our review. The components recommended several cities, and we chose Birmingham from among them. The USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force and ATF Violent Crime Impact Team that is planned for Birmingham would make it the eleventh city in the country with three types of Department violent crime task forces. Our site visit to Birmingham provided us with an opportunity to evaluate the coordination of investigations and operations of violent crime task forces at an earlier stage than in the other cities we visited.
The EOUSA comment that we based our finding that Birmingham was the least well coordinated city primarily on potential future overlap is incorrect. We assessed coordination based on the operations of the task forces in Birmingham and seven other cities during the period from FY 2003 through FY 2006. There was no element related to any “future overlap” in our criteria. Hence, our finding that Birmingham was the least well coordinated of the eight cities was based on our observations and interviews, not on a concern about future overlap.
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