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 memorandum dated March 28, 2007, the DEA responded to the OIG request for formal comments on the draft 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 comments, the DEA expressed three main concerns with the draft report. First, it contended that the criteria used by the OIG to evaluate task force management coordination should not have been applied to DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams. Second, the DEA asserted that the OIG changed the scope of the review after the components had commented on the OIG’s working draft of this report. The DEA stated that the OIG expanded the scope to include information on DEA state and local task forces when discussing locations where there were no Mobile Enforcement Team deployments. Third, the DEA disagreed that the deployment of a Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading, Pennsylvania, was not effectively coordinated. We discuss these three concerns below.
Task Force Management
Summary of the DEA Response. The DEA stated that, because not all of the criteria the OIG used to assess task force management coordination were applicable to the mission of the DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, the assessment did not accurately reflect the coordination of those teams’ operations. For example, the DEA stated that a Mobile Enforcement Team “is not a violent crime task force.” The DEA also stated that the Mobile Enforcement Teams do not have the option to routinely participate on other components’ task forces because “approximately 92 percent of the deployments were in areas with either no federal law enforcement presence or with only one other federal task force.” Further, the DEA stated that the teams usually cannot provide formal training because of the nature of their mission and operations.
OIG Analysis. The OIG disagrees with the DEA contention that the criteria we used to assess task force management coordination did not fairly reflect the mission of Mobile Enforcement Teams. First, the DEA’s comments are contradicted by prior information the DEA provided regarding the teams’ mission. In response to our November 3, 2005, request that the DEA describe the roles and missions of Mobile Enforcement Teams, the DEA stated, “The DEA created the Mobile Enforcement Team Program as an ambitious and far-reaching effort aimed at attacking violent drug-related crime, while reaffirming [the DEA] commitment to community-based policing.” Specifically, the DEA provided the following statement of the roles and missions of Mobile Enforcement Teams:
Working in support of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, [Mobile Enforcement Teams] will pursue the following objectives:
- Identify the highest level of drug traffickers and organizations in a particular community who engage in homicide and other violent crime.
- Focus resources to ultimately disrupt or dismantle those targeted drug organizations.
- Collect, analyze, and share intelligence with state and local counterparts.
- Develop investigations against violent drug offenders, gangs and drug trafficking organizations...
- Remove violent drug offenders and gang members from the community by assisting local law enforcement agencies in their arrest.
- Seize the assets of violent drug offenders, gangs and drug trafficking organizations.
- Provide appropriate support to local and federal prosecutors.
Our observations of the DEA’s field operations in eight cities were also consistent with the DEA’s prior descriptions of the mission and operation of the Mobile Enforcement Teams as violent crime task forces and illustrated that the criteria listed above are applicable. The specific results of our observations of the DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams under each criterion follow:
Criterion 1: Do violent crime task force missions overlap?
Result: DEA Mobile Enforcement Team operations overlapped with other violent crime task forces in four cities and did not overlap in four cities.
Criterion 2: Do fugitive task force missions overlap?
Result: The DEA fugitive mission did not overlap with other fugitive task forces in any of the eight cities because the DEA delegates fugitive apprehension responsibility to the USMS if a DEA fugitive is not arrested within 48 hours of the issuance of an arrest warrant.
Criterion 3: Do the components routinely invite local agencies to participate on task forces?
Result: The DEA invited local law enforcement agencies to participate in all eight cities.
Criterion 4: Do the components routinely invite other federal agencies to participate on task forces?
Result: The DEA invited other federal law enforcement agencies to participate in three cities. DEA and FBI Special Agents who participated in one of these deployments cited remarkable success in their joint effort.
Criterion 5: Do the components routinely participate on other federal agencies’ task forces?
Result: The DEA participated on another violent crime task force in one city.
Criterion 6: Do the components coordinate task force locations with local or other federal agencies?
Result: The DEA coordinated the location of its task force activities in three of the eight cities.
Criterion 7: Do the components routinely attend coordination meetings?
Result: The DEA routinely sent representatives to coordination meetings in seven cities.
Criterion 8: Do the components use training as an incentive to encourage task force participation by local law enforcement agencies?
Result: The DEA used training as a participation incentive in only one city, even though DEA guidelines direct Mobile Enforcement Team to provide training to state and local agencies.
Criterion 9: Do the components provide other incentives (such as use of cars or funding for overtime) to encourage task force participation by local law enforcement agencies?
Result: The DEA did not provide such incentives in any of the eight cities.
As demonstrated above, eight of the nine criteria were met in some or all of the eight cities we visited. With regard to the ninth criterion, although the DEA did not use incentives in any of the eight cities we reviewed, the criterion is applicable because the DEA is not prohibited from using incentives and does so for other task forces. Consequently, we considered it appropriate to apply all nine task force management criteria to Mobile Enforcement Team operations in each of the eight cities and to include these findings in the report.
Finally, we considered the DEA’s statement that, because “approximately 92 percent of the deployments were in areas with either no federal law enforcement presence or with only one other federal task force,” the Mobile Enforcement Teams do not have the option to routinely participate on other components’ task forces. We identified how many of the 125 DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployments occurred in locations in which another of the four types of task forces under review was operating. In almost 40 percent (49 of 125) of those deployments, there was another task force in operation. We did not examine in how many cases there was another type of “federal law enforcement presence” (such as a USMS District Fugitive Task Force or a state violent crime task force with federal participation). Consequently, we believe that the DEA has considerably more opportunities to invite other components to participate on Mobile Enforcement Team deployments, as well as to join with other component task forces, than the DEA response indicates. Moreover, in our review, which focused on cities in which those opportunities were present, we found that the DEA participated with other component task forces in only one of the eight cities.
Scope of the Review
Summary of the DEA Response. The DEA stated that the OIG revised and expanded the scope of the review after receiving the DEA’s response to the working draft. In that response, the DEA requested that references to state and local DEA task forces in Las Vegas and Birmingham be deleted because such task forces were not within the scope of the OIG review. Further, the DEA asserted that, because the report did not address the operations of its state and local task forces in all eight cities, references to its Las Vegas and Birmingham task forces should be omitted.
OIG Analysis. Contrary to the DEA’s claims, the scope of the review remained constant throughout the review. In cities that did not have all four types of task forces that Congress directed us to review, we interviewed personnel in the field offices for each component about all task force operations in their geographic area. We also asked about coordination of their operations with investigations conducted by any of the four types of task forces under review that operated in the area. During our entrance conference for this review, we explained to the DEA’s and other components’ representatives that the review would involve as assessment of the coordination of multiple components, not the operations of a single task force or team. We also advised the components that we would be requesting data on general agency operations in those cities that lacked one or more of the four types of task forces.
We collected information on DEA Mobile Enforcement Team operations in the six cities we visited where they had deployed. In the remaining two cities we visited where no Mobile Enforcement Team had deployed, we collected information on coordination efforts of other DEA state and local task forces with any of the other types of Department task forces examined in this review that were present in those cities. We used this same approach for other components’ operations, when applicable. For example, we used this approach to assess ATF’s operations in Birmingham and Chicago, and to assess the USMS’s operations in Philadelphia. Moreover, we added information to this final report to describe how we conducted the analysis in those cities that did not have all four types of task forces.
We did not agree with the DEA’s assertion that our report should have addressed DEA state and local task force efforts in all eight cities we visited. Examining all of the types of state and local task forces that the components have in all eight cities would have significantly expanded the scope of the review beyond Congress’s request and would have lengthened the time period for this review. Consistent with the methodology described in the previous paragraph, we examined only the operations of the DEA’s state and local task forces in the two cities that had no Mobile Enforcement Team deployments. In those cities, we did not examine the state and local task forces, but only examined how their operations were coordinated with the operations of the other components’ task forces that were within the scope of our review.
Mobile Enforcement Team Deployment to Reading, Pennsylvania
Summary of the DEA Response. The DEA stated that the working draft of the report included a finding that in FY 2005 the DEA failed to coordinate the operations of a Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading, Pennsylvania, with other Department components, which created tensions there and delayed the Mobile Enforcement Team’s operations. The DEA noted its previous request that the OIG remove references to the Mobile Enforcement Team deployment in Reading and stated that the DEA provided the OIG with documentation that the findings in the draft report were based on inaccurate and misleading statements by an Assistant U.S. Attorney. The DEA also presented a list of revisions to the draft report that the DEA asserted demonstrate that the “OIG has consistently altered the Reading [Mobile Enforcement Team] deployment section to fit their version of events.” The DEA concluded this section of its response by stating that:
DEA is troubled that OIG has decided to put more weight into a statement made by a FBI Task Force supervisor over the statements of DEA and ATF Special Agents in Charge, the [Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys], and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It should be noted, that this MET deployment originated as a result of a Reading Police officer being killed in the line of duty. The Philadelphia DEA SAC offered funding, resources, and manpower to the Reading PD in an attempt to further combat their violent drug trafficking problem. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force represented to DEA that the assistance of the DEA MET was not wanted or needed and that the FBI Safe Streets Task Force had the situation fully under control. This is evidenced by the comments made to OIG by the AUSA that was the FBI Safe Streets Coordinator. It is the position of DEA that this is not an example of DEA’s failure to deconflict, but rather the FBI Safe Street[s] Task Force’s failure to embrace DEA’s MET resources as an ally as opposed to an adversary. In addition to DEA’s request to remove this section, the [Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys] also requested its removal since DEA did deconflict, coordinate, and cooperate prior to the MET deployment.
OIG Analysis. The OIG disagrees with the DEA’s contention that we have altered portions of the report to fit our “version of events” regarding the Reading Mobile Enforcement Team deployment. Our findings are based on multiple interviews and the review of documents provided to us. Moreover, we did not, as the DEA suggests, “put more weight into a statement made by a FBI Task Force supervisor over the statements of DEA and ATF Special Agents in Charge, [Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys], and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.” Rather, we concluded that the Reading deployment was not well coordinated because the ATF, DEA, and FBI task force managers provided conflicting accounts regarding the Mobile Enforcement Team deployment that clearly indicated a lack of coordination. We also received conflicting accounts from DEA headquarters, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys on the coordination of the Mobile Enforcement Team deployment with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in Reading.
One example of the conflicting accounts involves a meeting among the ATF, DEA, and FBI Special Agents in Charge. Everyone we interviewed agreed that the meeting took place and that the topic was deployment of the Mobile Enforcement Team. However, recollections regarding the timing and purpose of the meeting varied. The DEA’s comments characterized the meeting as evidence of effective coordination, while the FBI Special Agent in Charge, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a local task force officer stated that the meeting was held to resolve various issues caused by the DEA’s initial lack of coordination.
After assessing the conflicting information provided by the components, we concluded that there were coordination issues between the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading throughout the deployment, and that the meeting of the Special Agents in Charge was necessary to resolve coordination issues. The DEA’s comments actually confirm the coordination issues, which the DEA asserted were caused by the FBI’s “failure to embrace DEA’s MET resources as an ally as opposed to an adversary.” We do not affix blame in our discussion of the Reading issues (or in any of our discussions of coordination issues), but present them as evidence of the need for better guidance on coordinating task force operations.
The DEA’s comments also misstate the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys' response to the OIG draft report. The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys' comments, included in Appendix IX of this report, did not ask the OIG to remove references to the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading. Rather, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys commented that the OIG discussion of coordination issues in Reading “overstates the resulting delay in task force operations.” However, as we report in Appendix X, in response to additional information provided by the DEA, we deleted the discussion related to delays in task force operations from the report because we did not affix blame in our discussion of coordination issues in Reading. We did not remove the discussion of the Reading Mobile Enforcement Team deployment for the reasons cited in this section.
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