from the cleaning-the-agency-up,-one-cautionary-letter-at-a-time dept
The DEA, like countless other law enforcement agencies across the nation, doesn't take employee misconduct too seriously. Perhaps upper management feels that drug warring is a tough, dangerous job and that any violations of policies/state/federal laws or other impropriety should be met with little more than a short, stern conversation and promises from agents that it won't happen again.
Brad Heath and Meghan Hoyer of USA Today have secured a log of DEA disciplinary actions via a FOIA request. What it shows is a lot of wrongdoing but very little discipline and/or action.
Lawmakers expressed dismay this year that the drug agency had not fired agents who investigators found attended “sex parties” with prostitutes paid with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia. The Justice Department also opened an inquiry into whether the DEA is able to adequately detect and punish wrongdoing by its agents.The DEA's history is littered with dirty deeds: warrantless surveillance, impersonation of medical professionals to gain access to patient records, a confidential informant program that runs with almost no oversight, concerted efforts to block internal investigations, etc. The document obtained by Heath shows its agents are perfectly capable of doing the wrong thing individually as well. And in most cases, they'll receive little more than the agency's lowest level of discipline (letters of caution) as punishment.
Records from the DEA’s disciplinary files show that was hardly the only instance in which the DEA opted not to fire employees despite apparently serious misconduct.
Of the 50 employees the DEA's Board of Professional Conduct recommended be fired following misconduct investigations opened since 2010, only 13 were actually terminated, the records show. And the drug agency was forced to take some of them back after a federal appeals board intervened.
Recommendations for punishment are handed down by the DEA's Board of Professional Conduct. Its suggestions for suitable discipline are often ignored.
This spring, the Justice Department said it had “serious concerns” about the discipline meted out to six agents who left a handcuffed college student in a holding cell for five days with no food or water. Two of the agents received brief suspensions; four others were given letters of reprimand.The DEA, of course, has excuses for its unwillingness to mete out appropriate punishments for wrongdoing.
DEA spokesman Joseph Moses said that often happens because it's not until after the Board of Professional Conduct makes its recommendations that employees get to fully present their side of the story. That can prompt human resources officials ultimately to opt for lighter punishment.And this, from former DEA internal affairs investigator Scott Ando, who apparently believes agent misconduct should be graded on a very generous curve.
"DEA agents should be held to a high standard, but not an unrealistically high standard."From what's in this document, it appears agents aren't being held to any standard at all. Distribution of drugs and a refusal to cooperate with the resulting internal investigation netted one agent a two-week suspension. Another's DWI arrest resulted in two days without pay. Falsification of records and theft of government funds? Five-day suspension. Failed random drug test? Also a five-day suspension.
That's not a high standard. That doesn't even meet the standards of the private sector. The last one listed is particularly odious because in most companies, a failed drug test results in immediate termination. At the DEA -- home of the "Drugs Are Bad" brigade -- a failed drug test is one workweek off without pay.
And for those who like their bad news bundled with worse news, Scott Ando -- he of the "high but not too high standard" now heads up Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police misconduct complaints. Presumably, Chicago cops will be held to Ando's high expectations: a standard where all the slack is pre-cut and "Of A Doubt" is listed prominently under "Employee Benefits."