The External Effects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Reprioritization Efforts
(Redacted for Public Release)
Audit Report 05-37
Office of the Inspector General
Good communication and positive working relationships between law enforcement agencies are critical for effective and efficient law enforcement. Given its broad investigative jurisdiction, the FBI has significant contact with other law enforcement personnel on the federal, state, and local levels. The FBI’s relationships with its law enforcement partners are crucial in combating crime, both reactively and proactively.
According to FBI managers and other law enforcement officials, the overall relationships between the FBI and other agencies have improved over the last few years. At the field level, other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies generally reported in our interviews that they considered their relationships with the FBI to be good.
As part of the FBI’s reprioritization, the FBI Director emphasized the necessity of establishing partnerships with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. For example, he cited the formation of these partnerships as one of the FBI’s new priorities. Additionally, the FBI Director established the FBI Office of Law Enforcement Coordination (OLEC) in March 2002 to enhance the FBI’s relationships with state and local law enforcement agencies. The OLEC’s mission is to establish and maintain partnerships between the FBI, state and local law enforcement entities, and national organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, for the purpose of mutual assistance and cooperation.
Management personnel at FBI Headquarters told us they recognized the increasing importance of building better relationships among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Statements by officials at many of the FBI field offices reflected the Director’s emphasis on establishing cooperative efforts with members of the law enforcement community. In general, they believed they had positive working relationships with other law enforcement agencies. Several FBI field division managers emphasized that professional relationships are dependent on the personalities of those involved. They noted that the discovery of communication gaps between agencies regarding the events leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States highlighted the need for improving relationships within the law enforcement community.
Within the field, non-FBI officials remarked that problems would arise at times among federal divisional offices, but most of these were addressed and corrected at the field level. Additionally, we spoke with almost 90 non‑FBI federal law enforcement officials and nearly all remarked that their relationships with the FBI were good to outstanding. In addition, the majority commented that their interactions with the FBI had improved over the past few years.
Almost every state and local law enforcement representative that we interviewed acknowledged a good relationship with the local FBI field office, and reported that this relationship appeared to become stronger over the past few years. Additionally, many local law enforcement agencies indicated that the FBI’s sharing of information with local departments has improved since 9/11. One example cited was the dissemination of intelligence bulletins. However, much of this information is terrorism-related, and several local officials indicated that they would like the FBI to share more of its intelligence and research regarding traditional crime areas, such as gangs and organized crime.
However, local law enforcement officials were concerned about maintaining working relationships when FBI agents are frequently transferred, either through the FBI’s reprioritization from criminal to terrorism-related squads or through normal career transfers. These movements required new agents to rebuild relationships and re-establish trust with local departments, all of which requires time and commitment.
In several areas we visited, monthly meetings of law enforcement agency managers within a jurisdiction were highly regarded. According to many officials, these meetings fostered and maintained good working relationships among the law enforcement community. Additionally, these meetings provided an opportunity for agencies to share ideas and information surrounding current investigative efforts. For example, these meetings were being held in both Chicago and Phoenix, and all parties involved agreed that these meetings were beneficial. Further, FBI managers at other field divisions stated that such meetings were not occurring in their jurisdictions and might be worthwhile to replicate.