Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crime Task Forces

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-004
May 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix IX
EOUSA Response
  U. S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Office of the Director

Room 2261, RFK Main Justice Building
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

MAR 26 2007


TO: Paul A. Price
Assistant Inspector General
     for Evaluation and Inspections

FROM: Steven J. Parent (Signature)
Acting Director
Executive Office for United States Attorneys

SUBJECT: Response to the Inspector General's Review of the Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crimes Task Forces

The Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) has reviewed the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) draft audit report entitled, Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crimes Task Forces, A-2005-011. EOUSA provides the following comments on the report's general findings, methodology and factual assertions. These comments do not respond to the report's specific recommendations, which are directed to and will be responded to by the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.

First, as a general matter, EOUSA agrees that greater coordination between and among investigating agencies leads to more effective law enforcement generally. EOUSA also agrees that the United States Attorneys' Offices can and should encourage coordinated task force operations within their districts. More cooperative task force activity results in more efficient use of federal monies and further reduces the risk of a "blue on blue" incident.

As the prosecutive office through which all criminal investigations must pass in order to reach fruition in court, the USAO has a unique and important perspective on the coordination of criminal investigations. However, it should be noted that, in their efforts to help coordinate currently existing violent crime task forces, the United States Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) do not control the personnel and resources of the investigative agencies. Thus, the USAOs' power to coordinate task force activity, while significant, is often limited to the power to persuade individuals and influence decisions. This fact is underplayed in the OIG report. EOUSA is hopeful nonetheless that the report will be a catalyst for improved coordination procedures in areas where they may be needed.

Second, the report is based in part on conversations with investigative agents regarding the activities of other investigative agencies. When particular anecdotes are discussed in the report it is not clear if all sides of the issue are fully presented. This format may lend itself to the possibility of causing tension between investigative agencies; tension that the agencies and the USAOs may have already worked hard to avoid.

Third, 77 percent of the duplicative arrests discussed in the report were attributable to overlap between the FBI and the USMS on fugitive investigations. (Report at 27 -29.) Apprehending fugitives is a critical function of law enforcement; without a defendant to prosecute the criminal case typically does not go forward. But it is also true that USAOs tend to have less involvement with the apprehension of fugitives than with the investigation of an unfolding criminal case. To the extent it can, of course, it is important that USAOs encourage operational deconfliction when more than one task force is searching for the same fugitive. However, it is not clear from the report how many of the fugitives who were the subject of these duplicative arrests were fleeing federal, as opposed to state, charges.

Apart from the above observations on the report's general conclusions and methodology, there are several specific factual issues that EOUSA would like to comment upon. First, in connection with the discussion of the FBI's efforts in Spokane, Washington, on page 19, we note that, notwithstanding the FBI's initially uncoordinated efforts, the United States Attorney maintains that it was the FBI's efforts that began the process of city and county discussions that led to the formation of a local coordinated gang effort. Indeed, it was these actions that formed the catalyst for what is now a very successful local Gang Enforcement Team (GET), which is a currently successful example of city, county, state and federal partnership. Similarly, as to the discussion on page 18 regarding the FBI's activities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, recent coordinated efforts on the part of the FBI and the USAO have served to resolve the problems discussed in the report.

As to the DEA's deployment of a MET Team in Reading, Pennsylvania, the report overstates the resulting delay to task force operations. (Report at 50.) Contrary to the impression left by the report, the DEA did meet with the USAO, ATF, and FBI and local law enforcement agents to work out logistics and deconfliction for the MET Team prior to the MET Team deployment in Reading. All targets were discussed in advance with the FBI. During the deployment, the USAO did not learn of any issues that impacted on the efforts of the Reading Area Violent Crime Task Force, and deconfliction worked well.

Regarding the task forces in Las Vegas, the report states that the DEA "specifically declined to work with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force because of tension between the two agencies." (Report at 59.) Broad statements such as this are not helpful to the report, particularly when the FBI and the DEA, along with the local sheriffs office, are currently working well together as part of the local METRO task force. In addition, the report states that "all four types of task forces operate in Las Vegas." This is somewhat misleading. Although the DEA MET Team from Los Angeles did deploy once to Las Vegas, from September 2003 until February 2004, it is inaccurate to say that a MET Team is currently operating in Las Vegas. Finally, there is presently new SAC or equivalent leadership at FBI, ATF, DEA, USMS, and HIDTA, none of whom were in Las Vegas when this report was being researched. Thus, the overall tenor of the section on Las Vegas does not correspond to facts on the ground now.

As to the task forces in Atlanta, on page 62 the report juxtaposes quotes from ATF and FBI which appear to overstate the duplication of effort by the VCIT and the multiple Safe Streets Task Forces in the Northern District of Georgia. The Atlanta VCIT is focused on the city of Atlanta, where there are few gangs, while only one of the Safe Streets Task Forces in the report operates in Atlanta, and that task force focuses mostly on areas outside the city limits.

Finally, the report's discussion of the task force coordination efforts in Birmingham, Alabama also should be clarified. The report methodology makes it clear that OIG reviewed data from FY 2003 to FY 2005. (Report at 77, Appendix II.) But Birmingham only had one national task force in operation at the close of FY 2005. Indeed, Appendix I at page 72 lists Birmingham as a city with only one task force as of the close of fiscal year 2005. The USMS fugitive task force referred to in the report did not become operational until July 2006, one month after the OIG visited Birmingham to collect information in May 2006. At the times noted there was no need to coordinate task forces because there was only one violent crime task force in operation. Thus, the report's finding that task forces in Birmingham are the least well coordinated seems primarily based on anecdotal worries of future overlap, rather than historical evidence. In addition, once two task forces began to operate in the district, but prior to the release of a draft of this OIG report, the district created a Violent Crime Working Group specifically designed to promote case coordination, deconfliction, and information sharing.

EOUSA appreciates the opportunity to offer the above comments. Notwithstanding the perceived drawbacks of the report, as described above, EOUSA fully agrees with the report's purpose and goals. EOUSA expects that as a result of the report, agency activities and investigations will be better coordinated in the future, leading to more effective prosecutions.

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