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


Results of the Review

In the sections that follow, we present our findings regarding the Department’s and the components’ efforts to coordinate task force investigations. We then present our observations of task force operations at the task force level, the investigation level, and the law enforcement event level. In the final section, we describe the combined coordination efforts of the components and the U.S. Attorneys in each of the eight cities we visited.

The Department’s Coordination Efforts

Overall, the Department did not adequately coordinate the operations of existing and new task forces created in the same jurisdictions. As the number of cities with multiple task forces has increased, concerns have arisen among Department officials, members of Congress, and local police chiefs that the Departmentís task force investigations must be well coordinated to avoid duplication of effort.

Although the number of violent crime task forces operated by the Department was steadily increasing, before May 2005 there were no Department-level policies requiring the components to coordinate the operations or investigations of violent crime task forces. In August 2005, the Department issued a policy requiring the components to obtain the Deputy Attorney General’s approval to conduct anti-gang programs and activities in new locations. However, even after August 2005 coordination issues occurred related to anti-gang task force activities in at least three cities.

The issues arose when the FBI approached local law enforcement officials in three cities about providing local officers to participate in new or revitalized FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Forces. Each of these instances resulted in either the U.S. Attorney or the local Chief of Police expressing concern about the coordination of task force activities. To improve coordination of the Department’s anti-gang activities, in June 2006 the Office of the Deputy Attorney General established a detailed application process for new anti-gang activities requiring support from and a recommendation by the U.S. Attorney for the jurisdiction in which any new anti-gang task force would operate. However, the current anti-gang task force guidance does not address the larger problem of the coordination among other violent crime task forces.

The Department operated task forces with overlapping missions without requiring them to coordinate their operations.

From FYs 2003 through 2005, the number of cities with more than one violent crime task force more than quadrupled. In FY 2005, the Department and its components operated more than 1 violent crime task force in 84 locations, up from 20 in FY 2003. ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the USMS and their task forces have overlapping violent crime jurisdictions and missions, as illustrated in Table 4.

Table 4: Violent Crime Missions by Component

MISSIONS ATF DEA FBI USMS

Armed violent offenders

 

Narcotics traffickers/drugs

 

Violent gang crime

 

Arms traffickers

   

Homicide/murder

 

Interstate robbery

   

Racketeering

 

Money laundering

 

Federal fugitives

State and local fugitives

   

Despite the overlapping missions, the Department did not adequately coordinate the operations of existing and new task forces created in the same jurisdictions. Specifically, the Department did not require coordination of the operations of the ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams or the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces even though other task forces were already operating in the same cities. As a result, prior to FY 2006, 5 USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces and 13 ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams were created in the same cities as 58 existing FBI Safe Streets Task Forces with overlapping missions.

When Congress directed the Department to create the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces, the Department did not evaluate the missions of 40 task forces that were already operational in the same cities. The 40 existing task forces included 6 FBI Safe Streets Task Forces with fugitive apprehension responsibilities. The congressionally defined mission of the newer USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces overlaps with the mission of the six existing FBI Safe Streets Task Forces with fugitive apprehension responsibilities. The overlapping missions of these task forces increased the need to coordinate task force operations. In two of the eight cities we visited, FBI Safe Streets Task Forces and USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces effectively coordinated their operations by agreeing that the USMS task force would pursue most state and local fugitives while the FBI would lead and the USMS task force would support more complex criminal investigations. Relations between the task forces in these two cities were excellent, as demonstrated by the following remarks made to the OIG review team:

In the other cities, however, relations between the fugitive task forces were tenuous, as demonstrated by the following remarks made to the OIG review team:

The Department’s creation of ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams with missions similar to existing task forces also created coordination problems. The Department did not require ATF to coordinate the locations or operations of ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams with the DEA and the FBI task forces already operating in the same cities. For example, the Department created a new ATF Violent Crime Impact Team with a gang crime focus in one city with an established FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force. The ATF Special Agent in Charge admitted that there was potential for their investigations to duplicate one another. An FBI Supervisory Special Agent stated, “I am truly concerned that we are seriously going to be duplicating [each other’s investigations of] gangs.”

The lack of Department-level coordination of new task forces sometimes reduced existing cooperative efforts. For example, in one city, the ATF Special Agent in Charge assigned an ATF Special Agent to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force when it was created. The ATF Special Agent served as a member of the USMS task force for 3 years. However, the ATF Special Agent stated that he was pulled off the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force when the ATF Special Agent in Charge disagreed with the U.S. Marshal’s decision not to provide a full-time Deputy Marshal to the newly established ATF Violent Crime Impact Team.

In another city, the USMS and local law enforcement agencies were members of an FBI Safe Streets Task Force that focused on fugitives. When the USMS established its USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force, its members left the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and the majority of the local law enforcement officers agreed to work with the USMS task force. The FBI did not join the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. Instead, it continued to focus on fugitives with a smaller FBI Safe Streets Task Force.

The Anti-Gang Coordination Committee tried to coordinate the overlapping missions of some task forces and was partially effective.

We found that the August 2005 policy was not fully effective at eliminating coordination concerns related to anti-gang task forces. Of the four components, at least two initiated new anti-gang activities between the time the Deputy Attorney General’s memorandum was issued in August 2005 and the time the more detailed procedures were issued in June 2006. In two cities, ATF and U.S. Attorneys proposed new ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General for approval pursuant to the August 2005 policy. In three other cities, the FBI approached local law enforcement officials about participating in FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force activities prior to discussing its plans with local U.S. Attorneys.

The Acting Chairwoman of the Department’s Anti-Gang Coordination Committee reported that after issuance of the August 2005 policy, the U.S. Attorneys for Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Spokane, Washington, expressed concern that anti-gang task force activities in their cities were not coordinated. We contacted the U.S. Attorneys and they confirmed that they had expressed concern over the FBI’s anti-gang task force activities. We also found that the FBI planned to conduct new anti-gang activities in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Chief of Police there confirmed that she had assigned police officers to a revitalized FBI Safe Streets Task Force. In each of the three cities, the lack of coordination resulted in competition with other components’ task forces for the participation of local law enforcement officers.

In Tulsa, the FBI planned to establish a Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force. The U.S. Attorney stated that the FBI did not coordinate efforts to establish this task force through the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The U.S. Attorney learned about the FBI’s efforts when the Chief of Police complained to him after being approached by the FBI. The Chief told the U.S. Attorney that an FBI Supervisory Special Agent had requested police officers for a new FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The FBI Supervisory Special Agent had indicated to the Chief that the Sheriff’s Office had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding and provided task force officers. The Chief of Police also stated that the FBI Supervisory Special Agent represented that the U.S. Attorney was aware of the new FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The Chief said that he told the U.S. Attorney that he preferred to continue the joint anti-gang efforts between his department and the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, established in 2004. A few weeks after the Chief complained, the FBI Resident Agent in Charge met with the U.S. Attorney to let him know that the FBI planned to request local task force members from the police department. The U.S. Attorney reported that the FBI’s efforts stalled because the police department was reluctant to join the task force.

In Spokane, the FBI planned to create an FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force and contacted local law enforcement officers in the fall of 2005. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington told the OIG that, a s the result of the FBI’s attempt to form a new anti-gang task force in Spokane, he received many calls from multiple law enforcement sources expressing concerns. Because local law enforcement personnel and resources were limited, the U.S. Attorney told us that he did not want “proven and successful task forces to be robbed of their officers.” An Assistant U.S. Attorney stated that he informed FBI task force officials that they had to coordinate the creation of the new task force and their request for local personnel with the other components and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in accordance with the Deputy Attorney General’s August 2005 memorandum. According to the Assistant U.S. Attorney, FBI task force managers stated that they were not aware of the memorandum. The U.S. Attorney therefore spoke with the components’ Special Agents in Charge and explained that if they were going to create new task forces, they had to be coordinated. Ultimately, the FBI decided not to create a Safe Streets Task Force in Spokane.

We also identified a coordination problem in Birmingham. The FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Birmingham stated that in early 2006 the FBI revitalized the activities of its Violent Crime Safe Streets Task Force, changed its focus to gang crime investigations, and requested local police officers for the revitalized task force. The Birmingham Chief of Police stated that the FBI asked her to provide local officers for its “new” FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force. The Chief granted the FBI’s request. She said this later prevented her from assigning officers to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force created in 2006. The Chief stated that she would not have assigned as many officers to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force if she had known that the USMS would also be requesting local task force officers.

In June 2006, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General issued procedures to improve the coordination of anti-gang task force activities and reduce the competition for local law enforcement participants. On March 23, 2007, the Associate Deputy Attorney General responsible for task force coordination reported that, “Since those procedures have been in place, the Department of Justice components have exhibited 100% compliance with the policies on new anti-gang task forces and all new anti-gang task forces have been subject to review by the Anti-Gang Coordination Committee and approval by the Deputy Attorney General.”

The current guidance does not address the larger problem of competition for resources among other violent crime task forces. Special Agents in Charge, U.S. Marshals, and task force officials we interviewed stated that competition for local task force members exists because local task force officers are critical to the success of the Department’s task forces. Local law enforcement agencies are therefore offered significant financial and training incentives to encourage them to participate. Several ATF and DEA Special Agents and Deputy Marshals responsible for task force operations told us that ATF, the DEA, and the USMS coordinated their requests for local task force members, but that FBI Special Agents cannot always be relied upon to do so. In response to this criticism, FBI headquarters managers pointed out that under the Director’s November 16, 1993, memorandum establishing the FBI’s national gang strategy, FBI “field offices will ensure that all [f]ederal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are provided the opportunity to participate and contribute to this [the FBI’s] investigative effort.” An FBI Safe Streets Task Force headquarters manager also pointed out that, “It’s the responsibility of the [Special Agents in Charge] in the field to always be coordinating, somehow, someway.”

The Components’ Coordination Efforts

We found that some components created their own policies on coordinating task force operations, but they did not always follow the policies. FBI headquarters managers reported the most difficulty in coordinating their task force operations. One FBI official stated:

How do we coordinate with federal agencies that have specific jurisdictions when we have jurisdiction for all of this [violent crime]? We aren’t going to give up a case. We’ll let the other agencies know [the FBI’s plans].

Detailed descriptions of the components’ coordination policies and their compliance with these policies follow.

ATF, the DEA, and the FBI did not effectively coordinate the operations of their violent crime task forces.

The DEA’s nation-wide policies require task force managers to coordinate with other components before they deploy a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team. Nation-wide DEA policy also requires task forces to coordinate investigations and deconflict events, usually through the local HIDTA information-sharing systems. DEA task force managers were generally effective in coordinating Mobile Enforcement Team deployments, but coordination issues surrounding the 2005 deployment of a Mobile Enforcement Team in one city created tensions among the federal law enforcement components in that city.

ATF does not have a nation-wide coordination or event deconfliction policy. Instead, according to an ATF headquarters manager, coordination is done in the field without a “step-by-step coordination directive” from ATF headquarters. When ATF created its first ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams in 2004, ATF headquarters managers did not coordinate the target areas and operations of their task forces with other components. An ATF headquarters manager stated that the presence of other task forces in a city was not a factor in deciding whether to create a new task force:

If there are already task forces present in the city [where an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team has been proposed], then they are not effective. If other task forces were handling [a city’s] problem, then there would be no need for an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team.

Since August 2005, however, new ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams have been coordinated with the other components through the Anti-Gang Coordination Committee. In addition, ATF requested that the DEA and the FBI provide Special Agents to work on ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams. In response to ATF’s request, the DEA is working to obtain funding for DEA participation on ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams. However, nation-wide efforts by ATF and the FBI to coordinate task force operations have failed. An ATF headquarters manager stated, “Coordinating with the FBI is a national problem.”

The FBI’s national policy on Safe Streets Task Forces does not require coordination and event deconfliction. FBI policy requires that proposals for new FBI Safe Streets Task Forces list other law enforcement agencies in the area with which the new task force would have to coordinate. However, the policy does not address coordination of existing task forces or FBI coordination with new task forces other components create. The FBI’s policy, issued in 1993, describes the coordination of investigations by multi-jurisdictional FBI Safe Streets Task Forces made up of federal, state, and local agencies. The policy does not cover participation in or coordination of investigations with federal violent crime task forces led by other Department components. An FBI Safe Streets Task Force headquarters manager stated that, “It’s the responsibility of the [Special Agents in Charge] in the field to always be coordinating, somehow, someway.”

In early 2006, an Associate Deputy Attorney General specifically asked ATF and the FBI to work together to coordinate and co-locate their task forces. An FBI Safe Streets Task Force headquarters manager stated that the FBI proposed joint FBI Safe Streets and ATF Violent Crime Impact Team task forces in several cities but that ATF declined its offer because they could not agree on which component would lead the task forces. An ATF headquarters manager acknowledged the FBI’s offer. He stated that ATF declined the FBI offer because it included a requirement that FBI Special Agents lead at least half of the proposed joint task forces. The ATF manager stated that he pointed out to his FBI counterpart that the FBI, whose first priority is terrorism, leads all of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, and that it would be appropriate for ATF, whose first priority is violent crime, to lead all of the violent crime task forces.

The FBI and the USMS did not coordinate fugitive task force operations.

We found that the FBI and USMS fugitive task forces have duplicated one another’s efforts and that these duplicate investigations can create a risk to officer safety. To coordinate the operations of USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces with ATF and the DEA, the USMS negotiated agreements to conduct fugitive investigations for them. The USMS does not have a similar agreement with the FBI. Instead, under a 1988 Attorney General memorandum on fugitive apprehensions, the FBI pursues federal fugitives on warrants the FBI obtains, and the USMS has primary responsibility for the apprehension of all other fugitives.

USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces can attempt to apprehend federal, state, and local fugitives based on any valid warrant. The FBI Unit Chief for the Violent Crimes and Fugitive Safe Streets Task Forces told the OIG that FBI Safe Streets Task Forces are authorized to apprehend state and local fugitives if the state or local jurisdiction requests FBI assistance and the FBI obtains a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant in accordance with FBI policy. When FBI Special Agents obtain federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants, the warrants are recorded in the federal Warrant Information Network used by Deputy Marshals to coordinate fugitive investigations.

However, we learned of two ways in which FBI headquarters managers permit FBI Safe Streets Task Forces to conduct state and local fugitive investigations that may duplicate ongoing USMS fugitive investigations without first obtaining federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants.25 FBI Special Agents can conduct preliminary investigations without a warrant for up to 90 days to determine whether a state or local fugitive has fled the state. Preliminary investigations do not require federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants and are not tracked in the federal Warrant Information Network. FBI Special Agents may also provide “domestic police cooperation” without a warrant to state or local fugitive investigations. The FBI does not have a policy that requires FBI Special Agents to coordinate preliminary investigations or domestic police cooperation with Deputy Marshals.

An FBI headquarters manager stated that obtaining Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants in every case and checking the Warrant Information Network are not critical and that when local law enforcement agencies request FBI assistance the USMS will know about it. In contrast, Deputy Marshals stated that they are sometimes informed about FBI investigations by state or local law enforcement agencies, but that they do not always know when the FBI is conducting a preliminary fugitive investigation or is providing domestic police cooperation because these investigations are not tracked in the Warrant Information Network.

In June 2005, FBI officials met with USMS officials to discuss and attempt to better coordinate their fugitive investigations, but the FBI and the USMS could not reach an agreement. An FBI headquarters manager told the OIG that the meeting was to reconcile the two components’ different approaches to fugitive investigations. However, a USMS headquarters manager stated to the OIG that the FBI wanted to discuss how to “divide the fugitive pie” between the two components. Regardless of what the meeting’s purpose was, the two sides agreed to disagree. An FBI headquarters manager stated, “We walked out with us continuing doing what we’re doing and them continuing what they're doing.”

Nation-wide Task Force Arrest Data

Our analysis of nation-wide task force arrest data indicated that the components’ coordination of task force investigations was uneven. Of the 97,228 arrests the components’ task forces made from FYs 2003 through 2005, we found that 1,288 had been reported by more than one task force. We asked the components to review their files and describe their coordination efforts and the circumstances of these arrests. On the basis of the information the components provided, we concluded that the components had conducted duplicate investigations in 768 of the arrests (60 percent) and had cooperated in joint investigations in 520 of the arrests (40 percent).

The number of duplicate and joint investigations among the remaining 95,940 arrests reported by one task force could not be determined. The data provided by the components could not be used to assess whether any of these arrested individuals were investigated – but not arrested – by a second task force. This was due to insufficient information in the components’ databases to match individuals under investigation who had not been arrested.26 For example, prior to arrest, an individual may be identified by different names in different component databases. One database may have the individual’s first name and another database may have only the individual’s last name or nickname.

Our analysis also showed that the components increasingly duplicated efforts as the number of cities with 2 or more task forces increased from 20 in FY 2003 to 84 in FY 2005. The number of duplicate investigations increased by 167 percent, from 153 in FY 2003 to 409 in FY 2005. During the same period the number of joint investigations increased by 117 percent, from 101 to 219 (Figure 1).

Further, the increase in duplicate fugitive investigations involving the FBI and USMS task forces, 131 percent, was four times greater than the increase in joint fugitive investigations, 33 percent, from FYs 2003 through 2005. During the same period, the number of duplicate fugitive investigations increased from 143 to 330, and the number of joint fugitive investigations increased from 98 to 130. These numbers reflect the problems of coordination and cooperation between the FBI and the USMS that we found during our site visits. The components’ descriptions of their task forces’ duplication of effort and cooperation in joint investigations are set out in detail in the following two sections.

Figure 1: Increases in Task Force Duplicate and Joint Investigations

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The task forces duplicated one another’s investigations 768 times during FYs 2003 through 2005.

On the basis of the information the components provided, we identified four ways in which the components reported duplicated efforts.

The task forces conducted 520 joint investigations during FYs 2003 through 2005.

On the basis of the information the components provided, we identified six categories of cooperation on investigations among the task forces.

Nation-wide data on FBI and USMS task force arrests showed the most duplication and the least cooperation.

Because FBI Special Agents and USMS Deputy Marshals we interviewed reported widespread tensions between the two components, we conducted a separate analysis of FBI and USMS task force arrests to compare the duplication of effort in their investigations to the other components’ investigations. FBI and USMS task forces accounted for 77 percent of the arrests reported by more than one task force (Figure 2). We identified 997 arrests reported by both the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces.

Figure 2: Distribution of Arrests Reported by
More Than One Task Force

Total Arrests: 1,288, FBI/USMS: 997, ATF/USMS: 140, DEA/USMS: 66, DEA/FBI: 44, ATF/FBI: 35, ATF/DEA: 6.

Based on the information on coordination that the FBI and the USMS provided to us, we concluded that they had conducted duplicate investigations in 643 of the arrests (64 percent) and had cooperated in joint investigations in 354 of the arrests (36 percent). Further, the trend of FBI and USMS investigations indicates that between FY 2003 and FY 2005, the number of duplicate investigations more than doubled, increasing from 143 to 330, while the change in the number of joint investigations was much smaller, from 98 to 130 (Figure 3).

Figure 3: USMS and FBI Duplicate Investigations Increased While Joint Investigations Remained Relatively Static

[Image Not Available Electronically]

Although the USMS made 184 reporting errors, there was no indication of a systematic effort by the USMS to report arrests made by other task forces.

A number of ATF, DEA, and FBI Special Agents expressed to us suspicions that the USMS was using its role in the federal prisoner booking process as an opportunity to claim credit for arrests made by other task forces.28 The Deputy Marshals we interviewed denied such an effort. Because the USMS is responsible for recording the arresting agency and the date of the arrest in the federal Warrant Information Network, we analyzed all of the components’ explanations of overlapping arrests to assess these complaints.

We found that the USMS reported 184 arrests that USMS task forces did not make.29 ATF, DEA, and FBI explanations for their arrests confirmed that the arrests were made without USMS involvement. The USMS reported these 184 arrests based on Warrant Information Network data. A case file review conducted by the USMS showed that these 184 arrests were actually made by other components’ task forces and that a USMS task force had not been involved in the investigations. After the components’ case file reviews, the USMS acknowledged to the OIG that it had erred in reporting these arrests.

We did not find the 184 erroneously reported arrests to be indicative of a systematic effort by the USMS to inflate its arrest statistics by claiming credit for arrests made by other components’ task forces. The 184 arrests the USMS erroneously reported represent less than 1 percent of the 29,967 arrests made by the other components’ task forces. The erroneously reported arrests are an even smaller percentage of the 67,261 arrests reported by the USMS task forces.

Coordination at the Task Force Level

We also attempted to assess task force coordination on a local task force level. In each city, we interviewed personnel from ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, HIDTA, and state and local law enforcement agencies from the city and surrounding jurisdictions to evaluate the coordination among the components’ field and task force operations. If a city did not have all four types of task forces within the scope of our review, we interviewed personnel in the field offices about their other task force operations and their coordination with the other component’s task forces.

In several of the eight cities we visited, U.S. Attorneys and local task force managers developed local policies and used information-sharing systems to increase coordination of task force operations in their jurisdictions. In other cities, task forces did not have coordination policies, did not use information-sharing systems, and operated as independent entities rather than as part of a coordinated Department approach for combating violent crime. In these cities, we found that task forces conducted duplicate investigations and wasted resources. We also found that failures to coordinate task force investigations resulted in three blue-on-blue incidents in which the failure to deconflict events resulted in task force members being misidentified as criminals.

To systematically assess the components’ efforts to coordinate their task force investigations, we developed criteria on three levels – task force management, cooperation on investigations, and law enforcement event deconfliction. Our task force management criteria assessed the ways in which task force managers accomplished local coordination, whether the components participated on one another’s task forces, and whether they effectively used training and other incentives to increase local participation on federal task forces. The cooperation on investigations criteria examined whether the task forces had policies to cooperate on investigations by sharing information with other law enforcement agencies and whether task force officers complied with these policies. The event deconfliction criteria included whether the task forces had policies to deconflict all events with other law enforcement agencies and whether task force officers complied with those policies.

The task force management criteria were:

Figure 4 shows the components’ scores based on whether they met the task force management level criteria across the eight cities we visited.

Figure 4: Task Force Management

Maximum score: 72, ATF: 42, USMS: 37, DEA: 35, FBI: 33.
NOTE: The maximum score for each component is based on the number of criteria and the number of cities. For task force management, there are nine criteria for each component in each of the eight cities.

The criteria for cooperation on investigations were:

Figure 5 shows the components’ scores based on whether they met the cooperation on investigations criteria.

Figure 5: Cooperation on Investigations

Maximum score: 80, DEA: 66, ATF: 58, FBI: 55, USMS: 54.
NOTE: The maximum score for each component is based on the number of criteria and the number of cities. For cooperation on investigations, there are 10 criteria for each component in each of the 8 cities.

The criteria for event deconfliction were:

Figure 6 shows the components’ scores based on whether they met the event deconfliction criteria.

Figure 6: Law Enforcement Event Deconfliction

Maximum score: 40, DEA: 40, USMS: 30, ATF: 29, FBI 19.
NOTE: The maximum score for each component is based on the number of criteria and the number of cities. For event deconfliction, there are five criteria for each component in each of the eight cities.

Each level of coordination can operate independently of the others. Figure 7 compares the components’ scores on coordination of their task force investigations on each of the three levels – task force management, cooperation on investigations, and law enforcement event deconfliction.

Figure 7: Component Scores on Three Levels of Coordination

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NOTE: The maximum score for on each level is based on the number of criteria for that level multiplied by the number of cities, eight. For task force management, there are 9 criteria; for cooperation on investigations, 10; for event deconfliction, 5.

Because the components can emphasize or neglect coordination at any of the three levels, the total scores for components based on all the criteria reflect the components’ overall efforts to coordinate task force investigations. Figure 8 shows the components’ total coordination scores based on all the criteria.

Figure 8: Component Scores on Task Force Coordination

Maximum score: 40, DEA: 40, USMS: 30, ATF: 29, FBI 19.
NOTE: The maximum score is the 24 criteria multiplied by the number of cities, 8.

Critical Factors in the Coordination of Task Force Investigations

The U.S. Attorneys’ oversight of the management of violent crime task force operations and the task forces’ use of information-sharing systems and adherence to deconfliction policies were the critical factors in the coordination of task force investigations. In the absence of Department and component coordination policies applicable to all violent crime task forces, U.S. Attorneys and task force managers in several cities developed local policies and coordinated task force operations. In other cities, U.S. Attorneys and task force managers did not develop policies and did not require the task forces to use information-sharing systems. In these cities, the task forces operated as independent entities rather than as part of a coordinated Department approach for combating violent crime. In addition, lack of coordination in these cities led to duplicate investigations and failures to deconflict events, resulting in three blue-on-blue incidents in which task force members were misidentified as criminals.

The U.S. Attorneys’ efforts were a critical factor in the cities with the best task force coordination.

U.S. Attorneys are the chief federal law enforcement officers in each federal judicial district and, therefore, along with task force managers, have a responsibility for coordinating Department task forces. To evaluate the role of the U.S. Attorneys in coordinating task force operations in each city we visited, we examined the following four criteria:

Based on these criteria, each of the U.S. Attorneys in the eight cities we visited provided some coordination for violent crime task force operations. For example, in Gary, Assistant U.S. Attorneys worked directly with each task force and met regularly with task force managers to coordinate task force operations. In Philadelphia, the U.S. Attorney and the Philadelphia Police Commissioner sponsored monthly meetings where ATF, DEA, FBI, and Philadelphia Police Department task force members coordinated their operations and investigations of selected violent crimes, firearms, and narcotics cases.

However, we found that U.S. Attorneys were not effective in coordinating fugitive task force operations in six cities. Both FBI and USMS fugitive task forces were operating in Atlanta, Birmingham, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, but the U.S. Attorneys in those cities did not direct the coordination of the fugitive task forces’ operations.

Figure 9 shows the total of the U.S. Attorneys’ and the components’ coordination scores for each of the eight cities we visited. The following sections explain the higher coordination scores achieved by the components’ task forces in several of the eight cities.

Figure 9: Task Force Coordination by U.S. Attorneys and Components in Eight Cities

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NOTE: The task force coordination score in each city is the sum of the four components’ scores and the U.S. Attorney’s score.

The use of information-sharing systems was the critical factor in achieving cooperation on individual task force investigations.

Task forces need to share information and coordinate individual investigations to avoid duplicate investigations. DEA task forces consistently used information-sharing systems, but ATF, FBI, and USMS task forces did not consistently use information-sharing systems and sometimes duplicated investigations as a result. For example:

Not all of the components’ task forces in the cities that we visited have a policy requiring the sharing of information, and when they do have a policy, not all the task forces comply with it. Table 5 shows whether the task forces have a policy to share information on investigations, the task forces’ compliance with the policy, and the task forces’ use of HIDTA information-sharing systems.

Table 5: Information Sharing for Cooperation on Investigations
in Eight Cities

CITIES ATF DEA FBI USMS

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Gary

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Camden

Y

Y*

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

N

N/A*

Philadelphia

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

N

N

N/A*

Los Angeles

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

Chicago

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

N

Y

N

Las Vegas

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

Y

Y

Y

Y*

Atlanta

Y

Y

N

N/A

N

N/A

N

N/A

Birmingham

N

N/A

Y

Y*

N

N/A

N

N/A

* Task forces use HIDTA information-sharing systems to coordinate.

When the task forces use information-sharing systems, they use them most often to avoid duplicating investigations rather than to cooperate in joint investigations. When task force members identify overlapping investigations, one task force’s members usually stop their investigation rather than conduct a joint investigation with another task force. In the eight cities we visited, ATF task forces cooperated in joint investigations in three cities. DEA task forces participated in joint investigations in one city, and USMS and FBI task forces conducted joint fugitive investigations in one city.

When we asked why task force members did not conduct more joint investigations, the most commonly cited reasons were a lack of trust regarding sharing law enforcement sensitive information (such as the names of confidential informants), potential interference with other investigations, and protection of “turf” from other task forces with overlapping areas of responsibility. Task force managers also pointed out that their task forces are conducting investigations within their particular missions the majority of the time.

Although we did not find that the components often worked together on joint investigations, when they did, we found examples of coordination that proved useful:

Even when task force managers decided to cooperate in joint investigations, the task forces sometimes had problems working together. For example, in Chicago, FBI Special Agents and USMS Deputy Marshals conducted a joint murder investigation in which the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force and the USMS Electronic Surveillance Unit were supporting the investigation with electronic surveillance. The supervisor of the USMS Electronic Surveillance Unit stated that he and the FBI supervisor coordinated their efforts but that USMS Deputy Marshals reported that FBI Special Agents working in the field refused to share information during the investigation. FBI task force managers stated to the OIG that the FBI only participates in a joint investigation as the overall lead agency. They also stated that because the FBI is the lead agency, FBI Special Agents share information in accordance with FBI policy.

The critical factor in event deconfliction was task force compliance with policies mandating the use of a deconfliction system for every event.

LA Clear

One example of an effective deconfliction system is the Los Angeles HIDTA deconfliction system, LA Clear. Every law enforcement agency that operates in Los Angeles County has agreed to use LA Clear for event deconfliction during felony investigations. The Special Agents and Deputy Marshals we interviewed credited the reliability and quick response time of LA Clear for the lack of blue-on-blue incidents, despite the high number of law enforcement events in Los Angeles.

Event deconfliction is the final opportunity to coordinate individual task force investigations. Deconfliction alerts task force members that an event may conflict with an event planned by other law enforcement agencies for the same place and time so they can avoid disruptive and potentially dangerous interference with one anotherís operations. Furthermore, the need for deconfliction increases when there has been less effective coordination at other levels. When managers fail to direct the coordination of task force operations and task force members do not share information to avoid duplication or conduct joint investigations, deconfliction becomes critical.

We found that members of the Departmentís violent crime task forces effectively deconflicted most events. DEA task force members were the most consistent at deconflicting events in the cities we visited. DEA task force members in all eight cities used HIDTA information-sharing systems. ATF task force members deconflicted events in seven cities, although deconfliction was only required by policy in four cities. USMS task force managers established a local policy to deconflict events in five cities, and task force members complied with the policy in all five cities. The USMS also deconflicted events in one city even though no policy required it. FBI task force managers had a local policy to deconflict events in three cities, but members consistently complied with the policy in only one of these cities. In addition, FBI task force members deconflicted events in one city even though no policy required it.

Table 6 shows whether the task forces had a policy to deconflict events, the task forces’ compliance with the policy, and the task forces’ use of HIDTA event deconfliction systems.

Table 6: Event Deconfliction in Eight Cities

CITIES ATF DEA FBI USMS

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Policy

Comply

Gary

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Camden

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

N

N/A*

N

N/A*

Philadelphia

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

N

N/A

Y

Y*

Los Angeles

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

Chicago

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

Y

N

Y

Y

Las Vegas

Y

Y*

Y

Y*

N

N/A

Y

Y*

Atlanta

N

N/A*

Y

Y*

Y

N

N

N/A

Birmingham

N

N/A

Y

Y*

N

N/A

N

N/A

* Task forces use HIDTA information-sharing systems to deconflict.

Failures to deconflict events can lead to dangerous situations. Task force members in three cities told us of blue-on-blue incidents that occurred because not all of the task forces operating there had deconflicted events:

Coordination of Task Force Investigations in Eight Cities

Across the eight cities we visited, the components use a variety of methods to coordinate task force investigations. In this section, we describe in detail the combined coordination efforts of the components and the U.S. Attorneys in each of the eight cities we visited. We begin with the city that exhibits the highest level of task force coordination based on our criteria and present information on task force management, cooperation on investigations, and event deconfliction for each city in order of the level of coordination.

Gary, Indiana

The following task forces operate in Gary: an ATF violent crime task force (not a VCIT), a DEA task force, an FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor, and the Chief Deputy Marshal credit the coordination efforts of the U.S. Attorney and local policies requiring the use of the local HIDTA information-sharing system for the effective coordination of resources and the minimal duplication of effort in Gary.

Task Force Management. Three task forces with anti-gang missions have the potential for duplicating operations in Gary: the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and two local task forces established by ATF and the DEA. We found consistent coordination efforts by each task force resulting from guidance provided by the U.S. Attorney and the task forces’ use of the local HIDTA information-sharing system. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor said, “We have not crossed paths [with ATF] as far as task force operations are concerned.” The DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge said, “We have our paths pretty well defined, everybody stays in their lanes,” and the ATF Resident Agent in Charge said, “I feel we’re in a good position. I understand the mission of the FBI [Safe Streets Task Force] and [the] DEA.”

Two task forces have fugitive apprehension responsibilities and the potential for duplicating fugitive investigations – the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force – but the two task forces coordinate fugitive operations. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor said, “There is no reason to fight it. I just hand them [state and local fugitive investigations] off.” The Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal said, “We’re not seeing a problem here” with FBI and USMS fugitive missions and said that the FBI Safe Streets Task Force gives the USMS every warrant it has. The USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force Coordinator said, “I haven’t come across a case yet that they [the FBI] have been working and we’ve been working.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office coordinates task force operations to avoid duplication. Assistant U.S. Attorneys work directly with each task force and then coordinate their investigations with each other. The U.S. Attorney said, “After identifying targets, we decide who goes after them with the existing task forces.” A Special Agent in Charge, a Resident Agent in Charge, and the Chief Deputy Marshal praised the coordination efforts of the U.S. Attorney. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge said, “Our relationship with [the U.S. Attorney ] is a beautiful thing. I love the way they have it set up.”

Despite the coordinated efforts, each task force actively recruits local police departments to participate on the task forces and competes for the limited number of available local police officers. One ATF Group Supervisor said that ATF has to “put together a hell of a deal” to recruit local task force members. One Chief of Police told us, “Sure, I’ve had to turn down federal task forces.” Some task forces have an advantage over other task forces when recruiting because they are able to provide more incentives to the local police departments. One local task force officer said that his department is “in awe” of the resources and equipment provided by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and that other officers call the task force to use their mini-cameras, surveillance cars, and other equipment.

Cooperation on Investigations. All of the components have local policies to coordinate investigations, including use of the local HIDTA information-sharing system, and all of the components comply with the policies. Task force managers stated that local policies requiring the use of the HIDTA system prevent duplicate investigations, although we found some overlapping investigations.

Although task force members share information, the task forces do not often conduct joint investigations. Both the ATF task force and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force have an anti-gang focus. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge and task force supervisor said the ATF task force only investigates firearms crimes but acknowledged that most of their suspects are gang members. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge and task force supervisor also stated that if task force members determine that a suspect is under investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, the task force members would share intelligence and conduct a joint investigation. However, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor and task force members said that they do not work with the ATF task force. They said that they investigate firearms crimes discovered during ongoing FBI Safe Streets Task Force investigations on their own, rather than turn intelligence over to ATF.

Event Deconfliction. The task forces have local policies to deconflict all events. Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and local officers said that task force members comply with this policy because the ATF, DEA and FBI task forces are required to deconflict events through the HIDTA. There were no blue-on-blue incidents in Gary.

Camden, New Jersey

All four task forces operate in Camden: an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, an FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. Although some of the task forces in Camden have similar missions, local task force managers avoid duplication of effort through regular meetings and task force members generally use information-sharing systems to cooperate on investigations and deconflict events without being required to do so by local policies.

Task Force Management. The task forces in Camden have overlapping violent crime and fugitive missions. For example, both the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force have anti-gang missions. The Assistant U.S. Attorney who works directly with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force said that the local HIDTA information-sharing system and the local Weed and Seed meeting sponsored by the U.S. Attorney, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Camden Police Department are the two main ways the task forces coordinate investigations to avoid “stepping on each other’s toes.” The Law Enforcement Coordinator said that communication in Camden is “better than it has ever been.”

The FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force have overlapping fugitive apprehension responsibilities, but the two task forces agree that the USMS takes the lead in apprehending fugitives in Camden. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force Supervisor said the task force does investigate FBI fugitive cases, but it does not have the resources to investigate state and local fugitive cases. The Commander of the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force said, “I don’t see this Safe Streets Task Force doing fugitive investigations in Camden. I don’t think it’s a problem here because they don’t have the people. They are doing a great job looking at gangs here.”

Despite the coordinated efforts, some competition for local law enforcement participation exists among the task forces. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge said that he has had problems recruiting local officers for the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team. He said that the local Sheriff’s Office declined to join the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and pulled back its officers on a previous ATF task force. The ATF Resident Agent in Charge later found out that those same officers had been reassigned to an FBI task force.

Cooperation on Investigations. ATF and the FBI have local policies requiring cooperation on task force investigations. However, most Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and local officers voluntarily use the local HIDTA information-sharing system to coordinate investigations. One local law enforcement officer assigned to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force said that coordinating his investigation by checking suspects in the HIDTA system uncovered overlaps between the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force and the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team. In most cases, he said, the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force stood down to allow the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team investigation to continue. The local law enforcement officer also recalled a “few cases” when he checked the HIDTA system and discovered that the fugitive he was attempting to apprehend had both a state warrant and an FBI warrant open. In these multiple warrant cases, the local law enforcement officer said that the FBI and USMS worked together in the subsequent investigation.

The task forces also share intelligence on an informal basis. One FBI Special Agent assigned to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force said that DEA Special Agents with the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team came to him seeking assistance and intelligence on some suspects and that he shared information he had. A Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Supervisor said that the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team frequently used USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force intelligence resources. The Commander of the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force also said that he met with ATF to discuss what the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team could do to get a “jumpstart” when it deployed in Camden.

A DEA Special Agent gave the following example: The DEA identified a group of suspects that was running heroin from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to North Camden, New Jersey. The DEA obtained warrants and captured a significant suspect with the help of the USMS. The suspect agreed to cooperate and identified other suspects who are now under investigation by the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team. The ATF Violent Crime Impact Team determined that one suspect may be connected to a corrupt police officer, so ATF planned to invite the FBI to join the investigation.

Special Agents and Deputy Marshals do not routinely participate on each other’s task forces in Camden, but in one instance, task forces coordinated investigations by assigning Special Agents to each other’s task force. The ATF Violent Crime Impact Team assigned an ATF Special Agent to the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, and the DEA assigned a Special Agent to the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team. The ATF Special Agent working with both task forces developed firearms cases out of DEA Mobile Enforcement Team arrests and made undercover firearms purchases through drug organizations to develop intelligence that benefited the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team.

Event Deconfliction. All of the task forces voluntarily use the local HIDTA information-sharing system to deconflict events. There were no blue-on-blue incidents in Camden.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

An ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, and three FBI Safe Streets Task Forces operate in Philadelphia. A USMS District Fugitive Task Force there works closely with the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force located in neighboring Camden. Task force members regularly attend coordination meetings sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and use the local HIDTA information-sharing system to coordinate gang-related crime, violent crime, and fugitive investigations and to deconflict events.

Task Force Management. Every month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department sponsor a meeting in each of the six Philadelphia Police Department detective divisions to share intelligence about violent crime, firearms, and narcotics investigations and to coordinate operations and investigations among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. At the meetings, investigations are assigned to the task force best capable of conducting them. An Assistant U.S. Attorney said all law enforcement agencies in Philadelphia participate, including ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the USMS.

An Assistant U.S. Attorney provided this example of coordination at one of the meetings: When ATF developed information from one of its confidential informants about a drug trafficker in the Central Division, ATF turned the information over to the DEA because the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team was primarily working in the Southwest Division and the DEA was willing to open an investigation in the Central Division.

Some of the task forces in Philadelphia have similar missions. The ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and an FBI Safe Streets Task Force have anti-gang missions, creating the potential for duplication. The FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge said that the missions of the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and FBI Safe Streets Task Force are different and that there is no duplication because the FBI is not interested in making felon-in-possession of a firearm cases. Special Agents and Assistant U.S. Attorneys said any duplication of investigations or task force disputes are resolved at the monthly coordination meeting and case-specific meetings with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

One of the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces and the USMS District Fugitive Task Force have duplicate fugitive missions. The USMS created a multi-agency District Fugitive Task Force in Philadelphia in 1983 to apprehend violent local, state, and federal fugitives. The FBI created an FBI Safe Streets Task Force there in 1993 as a fugitive squad. According to the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, on the 10th anniversary of the USMS District Task Force’s creation, the FBI held a press conference announcing the creation of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and stating that the city needed a fugitive task force. Both task forces continue to operate in Philadelphia, and both adopt violent fugitive investigations from the Philadelphia Police Department and other local agencies.

We found one instance in which the coordination of a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team in Reading, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia), was only partially effective. According to documents and statements provided by the DEA, the Reading Chief of Police requested a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment on March 1, 2005. An Assistant U.S. Attorney reported to the OIG that after the Chief’s request, there were coordination difficulties between the DEA, the FBI, and ATF because ATF and the FBI were already conducting task force operations in Reading and were concerned that their confidential informants would be arrested by the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team. In response to the other components’ concerns, the Philadelphia DEA Special Agent in Charge met with the Philadelphia FBI and ATF Special Agents in Charge to better coordinate the deployment.

On March 16, 2005, a meeting was held to discuss the specifics of the deployment. Representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the DEA; ATF; the Pennsylvania State Police; the Berks County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney’s Office; and the Reading Police Department attended. The Reading Police Department officers included a Sergeant who was a full-time member of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge believed that the Reading Police Sergeant was representing the interests of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. However, the Sergeant stated to the OIG that he did not represent the FBI at the meeting and that he stated this at the meeting.

DEA documents showed that after the March 16 meeting, the DEA opened a case file to support the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment to Reading on March 17, 2005. The DEA Philadelphia Field Division completed the pre-deployment assessment on April 5, DEA managers approved funding for the deployment on April 6, and the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team began operations in Reading on April 18, 2005.

An FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Philadelphia stated that there was no cooperation between the FBI and the DEA before or during the deployment of the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team to Reading. The FBI Special Agent who supervised the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in Reading stated that the FBI was not invited to the March 16, 2005, pre-deployment coordination meeting. The supervisor also stated that there was no cooperation between the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force prior to, during, or after the deployment.

An Assistant U.S. Attorney stated that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had to mediate several meetings involving ATF, the DEA, and the FBI to determine how federal targets of the Reading DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment would be deconflicted. He also stated that individual DEA and FBI task force operations were deconflicted by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office. Despite the coordination issues, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and an ATF Supervisory Special Agent stated that ATF, DEA, FBI, and state and local law enforcement operations were deconflicted during the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment in Reading.

All of the components invite local law enforcement to participate on their task forces. As a result, a Chief Inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department said that participation on the task forces was becoming a drain on department resources. The Chief Inspector complained that there are no efforts by the components to coordinate requests for local task force participation and said that the Special Agents in Charge exploit the fact that the police department will not refuse requests for participation on the task forces.

Cooperation on Investigations. ATF, the DEA, and the FBI have local policies requiring the use of information-sharing systems, but the USMS does not. ATF and FBI Special Agents in Charge said that it was their local offices’ policy that their task forces use the HIDTA information-sharing system to coordinate investigations. For example, the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and the FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force, which had overlapping gang investigations, shared information to facilitate gang investigations in Philadelphia’s 12th Police District. The DEA Special Agent in Charge said DEA policy mandates that all investigations be entered into the HIDTA system. Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and local officers stated that all task forces, except for the FBI task forces, comply with coordination policies. An FBI Special Agent assigned to an FBI Safe Streets Task Force said there is no coordination at the early stage of an investigation. Although the USMS does not have a policy, the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal said the USMS uses the HIDTA system to coordinate fugitive investigations. FBI task force members stated that they do not use the HIDTA to coordinate non-drug investigations but deconflict operations through the Philadelphia Police Department.

The FBI and the USMS fugitive task forces duplicate investigations. The Philadelphia Police Department divides its warrants among its gun violence squad, the FBI, and the USMS. The Top 10 Most Wanted fugitives in Philadelphia are divided in half between the FBI and the USMS. Every Monday, one of Philadelphia’s Top 10 Most Wanted is advertised in the newspaper – the ad alternates every week with FBI and USMS fugitives. A telephone number for the appropriate component is included, but occasionally the newspaper switches the components’ names or telephone numbers. When this happens, the components must relay the tips that were phoned in to the other component. Regarding the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS District Fugitive Task Force, a Chief Inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department said, “That’s where the biggest duplication of effort is.” The FBI and the USMS reported the following examples of duplication:

Because of the duplication of effort, t here are tensions between the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS District Fugitive Task Force. FBI Special Agents and USMS Deputy Marshals expressed concerns regarding task forces “stealing” one another’s cases, incorrect statistics, and failure to honor Memorandums of Understanding regarding fugitive investigation responsibilities.

Event Deconfliction. Three of the four components have a policy to deconflict events using the HIDTA information-sharing system. The ATF Special Agent in Charge said it is his policy to use the local HIDTA system to deconflict events. The DEA Special Agent in Charge said nation-wide DEA policy mandates that all events be deconflicted and that it is local policy to deconflict through the local HIDTA system. A local officer assigned to the USMS District Task Force said use of the local HIDTA system for event deconfliction is mandatory because it is a safety issue. The FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force has a policy and uses the HIDTA system to deconflict events. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force that focuses on fugitives does not have a policy requiring the use of the HIDTA system for deconfliction. Instead, this task force deconflicts state and local fugitive investigations through the Philadelphia Police Department. No blue-on-blue incidents were reported in Philadelphia.

Los Angeles, California

All four types of task forces operate in Los Angeles: an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, two DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, two FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. We found coordination of task force investigations to be mixed. Because federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies routinely use LA Clear to deconflict events, the task forces have been successful in avoiding blue-on-blue incidents.

Task Force Management. The U.S. Attorney does not directly coordinate task force operations through regular meetings or other efforts. Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorneys work with the FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force and the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team to coordinate individual gang-related crime investigations. ATF and FBI Special Agents stated that they compete in Los Angeles because the two gang task forces work with the same Los Angeles Police Department officers. However, task force supervisors and members said that because Los Angeles and its gang problem are so large, task force members believe that each task force has more than enough work and the chance of overlapping investigations is small. A U.S. Attorney’s Office official told the OIG that she believes, “Overlaps never happen,” and the possibility that investigations will overlap “is an absurd notion.”

There are two task forces with fugitive missions: an FBI Safe Streets Task Force and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. The FBI Special Agent in Charge, the U.S. Marshal, and local police supervisors said that, although both are fugitive task forces, the task forces pursue different types of fugitives. But we found tensions between the two task forces, and FBI Special Agents told the OIG that the USMS misrepresents the FBI when meeting with other law enforcement agencies: “The USMS tells the locals that the FBI isn’t doing fugitives anymore, but that’s not true.”

Cooperation on Investigations. Task force members stated that they coordinate investigations through LA Clear and that this coordination helps them avoid duplicate investigations. The task forces also cooperate through the implementation of Memorandums of Understanding and occasionally conduct joint investigations. For example, the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force supports ATF and DEA task forces by investigating their fugitives, and ATF and the DEA assigned Special Agents to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force to assist in fugitive investigations.

Despite the Department’s policy on fugitive investigations, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force failed to coordinate an international fugitive investigation with each other.

THE FBI AND THE USMS FAILED TO COORDINATE AN INTERNATIONAL FUGITIVE INVESTIGATION

The Los Angles County District Attorney’s Office requested the FBI’s assistance in capturing a fugitive, and the FBI obtained a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant. The following conflicting accounts provided by the FBI and USMS task forces describe the uncoordinated attempts to apprehend the same fugitive.

FBI Safe Streets Task Force

USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force

In 2005, a source told a Deputy Marshal on the Regional Fugitive Task Force that the fugitive had fled to Mexico. The FBI had Special Agents in Mexico waiting to make the arrest. However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney had not agreed to allow the FBI to state to the Mexican authorities that California would not seek the death penalty, as required by the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, the USMS told the local District Attorney that it could get the defendant out of Mexico immediately. Deputy Marshals and Mexican authorities arrested the fugitive, and he was returned to the United States. The FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Safe Streets Task Force stated that he had informed the USMS that its proposed action was dangerous and that he told the FBI Special Agents in Mexico to stand down so that no one would get hurt. When the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Safe Streets Task Force asked the Deputy Marshals to justify their actions, they initially denied that the incident had occurred. FBI Special Agents stated that incidents like this one make it more difficult to coordinate future task force investigations.

In 2005, the Los Angles County District Attorney’s Office called the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force and requested assistance in locating and apprehending a fugitive. The Regional Fugitive Task Force determined that the fugitive was the subject of an FBI federal warrant, so the USMS advised the District Attorney’s Office that, because of the FBI’s federal warrant, the Regional Fugitive Task Force would not investigate. The District Attorney’s Office informed the FBI that its assistance in the investigation was no longer desired and requested that the federal warrant based on their local charges be quashed. For several months, up through the issuance of a provisional arrest warrant for the fugitive in Mexico, the FBI continued to insist that it would maintain control of the investigation, despite the District Attorney’s Office’s desire to have the USMS arrest the fugitive and arrange for his return to the United States. With the District Attorney’s approval, Deputy Marshals and Mexican authorities made the arrest, and the fugitive was returned to the United States.

Event Deconfliction. The task forces routinely use LA Clear to deconflict events. Even though there are multiple task forces in Los Angeles – an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, two DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, two FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force – the task forces’ members stated that because their task forces use LA Clear to deconflict events, there had been no blue-on-blue incidents in Los Angeles. An ATF Special Agent emphasized the lesson he learned when he failed to deconflict a law enforcement event: A team of ATF Special Agents had a residence under surveillance all night before they noticed other government cars. One of the ATF Special Agents recognized an FBI Special Agent in one of the cars, so they made some phone calls and verified that it was the FBI. The ATF Special Agent acknowledged that he had not called LA Clear before the operation to deconflict the event.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, three FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. There is also a local ATF task force in Chicago. Although anti-gang task force investigations are well coordinated through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the components are reluctant to cooperate on other violent crime and fugitive investigations.

Task Force Management. Although both ATF and two of the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces have anti-gang crime missions, there is little duplication of effort because the U.S. Attorney coordinates all gang investigations through a monthly gang strategy meeting called the “Top 20” meeting. At the Top 20 meetings, representatives from ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and the Chicago Police Department share intelligence on their gang targets and, based on the intelligence, update the Top 20 gang targets. The component with the best intelligence on a target normally leads the investigation, and the other components share information with that component. An ATF Special Agent stated that sometimes there was “head butting” over who had the best intelligence, but the U.S. Attorney decides which component leads the investigation.

Even if a gang target does not attain Top 20 status, the components coordinate gang investigations through the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Individual Assistant U.S. Attorneys are assigned to specific gangs. If there is an overlapping investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office decides which task force will handle the investigation.

ATF, DEA, and FBI Special Agents told us that the components and task force members have developed close partnerships with the local police department and that the local police department serves as the coordinating mechanism for task force efforts. As a result of the Top 20 meetings and the coordination efforts of the local police, we found little overlap in the anti-gang operations of federal task forces in Chicago. However, we found limited efforts to coordinate fugitive task force efforts.

For example, the creation of a new USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force overlapped with an existing FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force began solely as a fugitive unit, with the USMS, the Chicago Police Department, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office as partners. When the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force was created, the U.S. Marshal and the Chicago Police Department reassigned the Deputy Marshals and the entire Chicago Police Department Fugitive Squad from the FBI Safe Streets Task Force to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. An FBI Special Agent stated that a task force member from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office gave him only a day’s notice that he was leaving for the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. The FBI has been invited to participate on the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force on several occasions, but the FBI has always declined.

The components also compete for local participation on their task forces. An ATF Special Agent pointed out that there are five police officers assigned to the FBI task force, as opposed to the two that are assigned to his task force. The ATF Special Agent also stated that he believed that the difference was a result of the FBI’s bigger budget and other incentives, such as asset sharing from seizures.

Cooperation on Investigations. All the components have policies mandating that investigations be coordinated to avoid duplication of effort. ATF, DEA, and FBI policies dictate the use of the local HIDTA information-sharing system to coordinate investigations. But we found that only ATF and the DEA comply with their policies. Moreover, the components do not often cooperate on joint investigations. An ATF Special Agent stated that his component does “not make a habit of working with the other components.” An FBI Special Agent stated, “If I can avoid it, I won’t work any joint investigations with other federal agencies.” The FBI Special Agent went on to state that he believed his agency does “10 times a better job” than other components and that he believes that other agencies have tried to steal his cases.

There is the potential for fugitive task forces in Chicago to conduct overlapping investigations on state and local cases. Under Illinois law, “investigative alerts” (instead of warrants) are issued for fugitives. Unlike warrants, investigative alerts cannot be entered into NCIC. Therefore, to coordinate fugitive investigations, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force that conducts fugitive investigations and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force have agreed that the task force that gets a case first investigates it. To determine if the USMS is already investigating a case, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force asks the local agency referring the investigation if the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force is involved. The USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force also has agreed not to investigate if the FBI has obtained a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant recorded in the Warrant Information Network. However, FBI Safe Streets Task Force preliminary investigations to determine whether a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant is necessary are not entered into the federal Warrant Information Network or NCIC, which creates the potential for duplication of effort and conflict of operations with the USMS task force.

USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force members acknowledged that there had been conflicts with the FBI in the past, but they believed that the problems had been “quashed” and were now “almost non-existent.” However, interviews with FBI Special Agents indicate that the relationship is still strained and coordination is difficult. An FBI Special Agent stated that the USMS was “less professional” than the FBI, was only interested in “door-kicking cases,” was “in a numbers game,” and arrested “low-level criminals.” Another FBI Special Agent stated that the creation of the Regional Fugitive Task Force had caused “nothing but problems.”

Event Deconfliction. All four components have local event deconfliction policies, but the FBI does not consistently deconflict events. ATF, DEA, and FBI policies mandate the use of the local HIDTA information-sharing system for event deconfliction. The USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force calls other agencies to alert them to upcoming operations. ATF, DEA, and USMS task forces comply with their deconfliction policies. However, one FBI Safe Streets Task Force does not comply with FBI policy to use the local HIDTA system and does not contact other agencies either. An FBI Special Agent stated that if he told the Chicago Police Department that he was “hitting a place,” the investigation would be stolen.

A blue-on-blue incident occurred in Chicago in December 2005 between ATF and the FBI when an ATF confidential informant and an undercover ATF Special Agent bought a loaded gun from an FBI Safe Streets Task Force confidential informant. After the buy was completed, the ATF undercover agent was arrested.

The ATF Special Agent responsible for the undercover operations said that he used the local HIDTA deconfliction system to check the location of the gun sale and the nicknames associated with the seller; there were no hits. Meanwhile, the FBI Special Agent who supervised the FBI Safe Streets Task Force stated that the FBI assumed that the Chicago Police Department would deconflict the sale of the gun by the FBI confidential informant because the Chicago Police Department would be arresting the buyer.

The FBI Special Agent said that the Chicago Police Department did not deconflict the sale because an FBI source had provided the information that led to the investigation and they though the FBI would handle the deconfliction. In the end, neither the FBI nor the Chicago Police Department deconflicted the undercover sale. The gun buy went through and was followed by a traffic stop of the undercover ATF agent, engineered by the FBI and the Chicago Police Department. Both the undercover ATF Special Agent and the FBI’s confidential informant were arrested. Afterwards, ATF, the FBI, and the Chicago Police Department met to discuss the incident, and an FBI Supervisory Special Agent told us that the FBI strengthened its policy to require deconfliction and reiterated the need for deconfliction to all task force members “to avoid a similar mistake.”

Las Vegas, Nevada

All four types of task forces operate in Las Vegas: an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, two FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and a branch office of the USMS Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force. The task forces’ missions overlap, and Special Agents, Deputy Marshals, and task force officers were unable to provide specific examples of successful coordination or deconfliction. To the contrary, they provided several examples of failure to coordinate investigations and described one blue-on-blue incident.

Task Force Management. Although the task forces in Las Vegas have overlapping gang missions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not coordinate task force operations and instead resolves disputes on an ad hoc basis. Both the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and the FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force focus on reducing gang-related violent crime, sometimes in the same neighborhoods. When their investigations overlap, the U.S. Attorney decides which task force’s investigation should take the lead. Local police supervisors told us that they could not differentiate between the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team’s and the FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force’s operations.

Two fugitive task forces also operate in Las Vegas: an FBI Safe Streets Task Force, known locally as the Criminal Apprehension Team (CAT), and a joint USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force-District Task Force, known locally as the Fugitive Investigative Strike Team (FIST). Prior to the creation of the FIST, a Deputy Marshal was assigned to the CAT. However, tensions are now high between the two task forces because both conduct fugitive investigations based on state warrants that the task forces receive from the local police department. FBI Special Agents and Deputy Marshals as well as the local Sheriff recognized the duplication of effort and acknowledged tensions between the two agencies. One FBI Supervisory Special Agent said the USMS “doesn’t have the capability to chase fugitives.” A Supervisory Deputy Marshal said that the FBI should shut down its fugitive efforts because it does not make sense to have two task forces and added, “We want to be in charge of the FBI’s fugitives because that’s what we do.”

Competition also exists for local participation on the task forces. The Sheriff stated that there had been times when he declined participation on a violent crime task force because his department was already participating on a similar task force. The Sheriff said that he recently declined to participate on an FBI task force and that there had been a “flare up” with the USMS because the U.S. Marshal wanted one or two more police officers for the USMS task force.

Cooperation on Investigations. The cooperation on task force investigations in Las Vegas is poor. ATF, DEA, and FBI Special Agents do not regularly share information on specific suspects under investigation and do not conduct joint investigations. The DEA field office specifically declined to work with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force because of tension between the two agencies. The DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge stated that the DEA’s relationship with the FBI was strained because of the FBI’s actions in previous overlapping investigations and because of disputes regarding the operation of a local intelligence center. He explained that the DEA, in cooperation with the USMS FIST, had conducted fugitive and criminal investigations on members of a local motorcycle gang. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force arrested the DEA targets while the DEA task force was planning its arrest operation. However, DEA headquarters reported that the strained relationship in Las Vegas did not directly involve DEA Mobile Enforcement Team operations and that the cooperation level between the FBI and the DEA in Las Vegas is improving.

We also found open hostility between FBI and USMS fugitive task force members, with both conducting investigations of fugitives wanted on state warrants only. The lack of coordination between the CAT and the FIST has created several duplications of effort, for example:

The HIDTA Executive Director noted the animosity between members of the USMS and FBI task forces and stated that “something must be done to ensure officer safety.”

When pressed for an example of coordination, an FBI Special Agent on the CAT said that the FBI recently learned from a confidential informant that a suspect was wanted on a DEA warrant. The FBI did not contact either the DEA or the USMS regarding the lead and instead arrested the suspect. Once the arrest had been made, the FBI contacted the USMS and reported that the defendant was in custody. The USMS told the FBI that the DEA had not transferred the warrant to the USMS and advised the FBI to contact the DEA to assume custody of the defendant. Neither the USMS Deputy Marshals nor the DEA Special Agents involved consider this to be an example of coordination.

Event Deconfliction. All of the components except the FBI have local policies requiring the deconfliction of events. ATF, the DEA, and the USMS comply with their policies by deconflicting through the LA Clear HIDTA system. All of the components and local law enforcement agencies stated that the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces does not use LA Clear. Some FBI Special Agents stated that task force members do use the system, but other FBI Special Agents stated that task force members do not use LA Clear to deconflict, specifically during fugitive investigations.

ATF and DEA Special Agents reported several incidents in which the FBI failed to deconflict operations, including one blue-on-blue incident:

Atlanta, Georgia

All four task forces operate in Atlanta: an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team, a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, two FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. Overall, we found that task force investigations are not well coordinated.

Task Force Management. We found limited direction of task force operations and target areas in Atlanta. The U.S. Attorney’s Office holds monthly meetings attended by representatives from all federal law enforcement agencies, as well as bimonthly law enforcement leadership meetings attended by the ATF, the DEA, and the FBI Special Agents in Charge and representatives from the State Attorney General’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. However, task force managers and Assistant U.S. Attorneys told us that task force operations are discussed at these meetings only in general terms.

With respect to coordinating anti-gang task forces, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is the Anti-Gang Coordinator and also works with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force stated, “We are involved very early on to coordinate targets and who should investigate them.” The Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team stated that members of the task force would inform her of their suspects from the beginning of an investigation. However, task force managers stated that the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not have a significant role in the coordination of other violent crime task force investigations.

Although the creation of the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team was coordinated through the U.S. Attorney and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, ATF did not effectively coordinate with the other component field offices in Atlanta. The ATF Special Agent in Charge admitted that there was potential for their investigations to duplicate one another and stated, “We’re doing the same thing.” An FBI Supervisory Special Agent stated, “I am truly concerned that we are seriously going to be duplicating [each other’s investigations of] gangs.”

The fugitive missions of a second FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force also overlap. An Atlanta Police Department Officer assigned to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force explained to us that both task forces receive warrants from the Atlanta Police Department, and on occasion, the Atlanta Police Department has unintentionally assigned the same warrant to both task forces. The FBI Safe Streets Task Force also increases the probability of duplication of effort by investigating state and local fugitives without first obtaining a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant, as required by FBI policy. Both FBI Special Agents and USMS Deputy Marshals admitted that there has been friction between the two task forces but also stated that relations have improved.

ATF invited the DEA and the USMS to participate on the ATF Violent Crime Impact Team. In return, both agencies provided points of contact, and ATF provided a full-time member to the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force. ATF did not approach the FBI because, according to the ATF Special Agent in Charge, both components investigate violent crime, so cross-participation on the task forces would “wash each other out.” The DEA Mobile Enforcement Team invited other agencies to join its deployments and conduct joint investigations.

Cooperation on Investigations. Only ATF has a local policy to coordinate investigations, but all of the components’ task force members said that they attempt to coordinate through word of mouth. Cooperative efforts are limited because the Atlanta HIDTA information-sharing system does not have the capability to support information sharing to avoid duplicate investigations of the same suspect. A HIDTA official reported that he proposed expanding the HIDTA’s deconfliction capability to include an information-sharing system to help avoid duplicate investigations by the components. The HIDTA official told us and the FBI task force managers confirmed that the FBI declined to participate, and because HIDTA’s operations require consensus by all law enforcement agencies involved, the proposal was not implemented.

The task forces in Atlanta rely on the local police departments for coordination. The fugitive-focused FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force rely on the Atlanta Police Department to coordinate warrants. The DEA Mobile Enforcement Team relies on local police officials to “spread the word” and coordinate the planned deployment with all law enforcement agencies in the area. As a result, the FBI was not aware of a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment to a small town outside Atlanta until a local law enforcement agency told the FBI that the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team was interested in suspects that the FBI was actively investigating. After the FBI became aware of the DEA Mobile Enforcement Team deployment, the DEA and the FBI coordinated and investigated the suspects jointly.

The task forces work together occasionally. For example, USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force members reported that they worked with members of the fugitive-focused FBI Safe Streets Task Force on a high-profile investigation. However, a USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force officer stated, “The case didn’t go well at all.” He stated that although most of the legwork was done by one group of Atlanta Police Department personnel on the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force, another group of Atlanta Police Department personnel assigned to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force stepped in during the arrest and took credit for it.

Event Deconfliction. Although the Atlanta HIDTA system does not have the capability to support information sharing to avoid duplicate investigations, it can support deconfliction of task force events. The DEA and the FBI have local policies requiring their task forces to use the HIDTA system to deconflict drug-related events. Neither ATF nor the USMS have policies requiring their task forces to deconflict events in Atlanta. The ATF Violent Crime Impact Team Coordinator stated that he instructs his task force officers to use the HIDTA system for event deconfliction. He provided the following example: The ATF Violent Crime Impact Team was on standby at a location to “hit” a house and called the HIDTA to report the event. Another agency was also preparing to serve a warrant at the same house. Because that agency also called the HIDTA to deconflict, a blue-on-blue was avoided.

Although the FBI has a local deconfliction policy, it covers only events associated with drug investigations. The FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force has not used the HIDTA information-sharing system to deconflict, and, according to the FBI task force manager, has crossed paths with other task forces. Moreover, because the FBI and the USMS fugitive task forces do not deconflict their law enforcement events, a blue-on-blue incident occurred in Atlanta: A USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force member reported that he was conducting surveillance on a fugitive’s house when he was “pulled over” by members of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force because he was in a car that was similar to the fugitive’s car. The Task Force member told us that he had to get out of his car during the surveillance and identify himself to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force members.

A similar situation occurred between an FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the DEA. An FBI Special Agent stated that the FBI Safe Streets Task Force members were conducting surveillance on a house when task force officers noticed that DEA Special Agents were conducting surveillance on the same house. When FBI Safe Streets Task Force members met with the DEA to discuss the situation, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force members learned that the DEA had been investigating the targeted gang for a long time for drug trafficking before the FBI Safe Streets Task Force began a murder-for-hire investigation on the same gang. The FBI Special Agent stated that DEA Special Agents were angry that the FBI Safe Streets Task Force wanted to move forward with its investigation. FBI task force managers told us that the U.S. Attorney had to referee between the two components. Both components have continued with their separate investigations, but said that they coordinate and deconflict on a daily basis.

Birmingham, Alabama

In Birmingham, the FBI and USMS each have a task force in operation, and two more task forces were planned – an ATF Violent Crime Impact Team and an FBI Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force. ATF and the DEA also have local task forces there. The task forces’ missions overlap, there are no established procedures for coordination and deconfliction, and the local police department is unable to provide officers to all of the task forces. We found that task force investigations in Birmingham are the least well coordinated of any city we visited.

Task Force Management. The U.S. Attorney’s Office sponsors only two meetings a year to set priorities and coordinate investigations that could overlap with Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations.31 With the exception of these biannual OCDETF meetings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not routinely meet with the components to coordinate targets, priorities, or investigations but does coordinate investigations on an ad hoc basis after a duplication of effort has been identified. For example, the FBI was investigating a gang for bank robbery and murder, and the DEA was investigating the same gang for drug-related crimes. When the FBI task force members realized that the gang was involved with drugs, they called the local DEA Special Agents, and the components discovered they were investigating the same people. The DEA was already working with an Assistant U.S. Attorney, so the FBI called that Assistant U.S. Attorney, who then coordinated the two investigations.

At the time of our visit, ATF and the FBI had proposed anti-gang task forces in the same precincts, but were not coordinating to ensure the task forces do not overlap. An Assistant U.S. Attorney predicted that, with the increasing number of task forces, there would be more duplication and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would have to referee more often.

Additionally, the FBI and the USMS do not work together when establishing agreements with local law enforcement agencies regarding assistance with fugitive investigations. Instead, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force have separate cooperative agreements with the police departments in Birmingham and the adjacent suburb of Hoover. These agreements make investigations more difficult when a fugitive travels back and forth between Birmingham and Hoover.

Cooperation on Investigations. The DEA is the only component that has a policy requiring its task forces to use the local HIDTA information-sharing system to coordinate investigations. ATF and DEA Special Agents reported that their task forces routinely share information, but a DEA official stated that the DEA’s task force personnel coordinate with the FBI only “when they have to.”

The DEA’s local task force and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force have overlapping missions. The DEA task force has been investigating the gang element in Birmingham’s methamphetamine epidemic. At the same time, the mission of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force – historically a violent crime task force that targeted major theft, carjackers, bank robbers, and fugitives – changed to focus not only on gangs but also on criminal enterprises that are involved with drugs. A DEA official believed that the FBI Safe Streets Task Force may be “a backend for the FBI to investigate drug dealers by calling them violent enterprises.” He added that the task forces in Birmingham were all looking at the same thing but at different stages.

On fugitive investigations, FBI and USMS task force members do not work together to provide assistance to local law enforcement. Because the FBI and the USMS did not cooperate in establishing the fugitive task force agreements described above, when a fugitive flees from Birmingham to Hoover, or vice versa, the fugitive task force responsible for assisting local law enforcement changes. The U.S. Marshal and the Hoover Chief of Police told us that this arrangement made fugitive investigations more difficult. However, the FBI does cooperate with the USMS on specific investigations involving federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants. FBI Special Agents stated that to ensure the appropriate allocation of FBI resources, they would not investigate a state fugitive case without first obtaining a federal Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant.

Event Deconfliction. Only the DEA has an event deconfliction policy mandating the use of the HIDTA information-sharing system. One DEA task force officer stated that task force members could accomplish deconfliction nearly as effectively by “yelling over their cubicles.” The other task forces deconflict operations by calling local police departments individually. Because only the DEA uses the HIDTA system, one DEA task force officer explained that to deconflict a reverse buy, he had to make 10 phone calls. The USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force’s members stated that they deconflicted events by running a warrant check and then calling the other components and local law enforcement agencies to alert them to upcoming operations. There were no reported blue-on-blue incidents in Birmingham.



Footnotes
  1. FBI headquarters managers stated that only one Safe Streets Task Force is dedicated solely to fugitive investigations. This task force is located in Boston in order to apprehend a single fugitive, James Bulger, an organized crime boss who has been a fugitive since 1995. However, we identified eight FBI Violent Crime Safe Streets Task Forces that routinely attempted to apprehend federal, state, and local fugitives, with and without federal warrants.

  2. Matching individuals under investigation by the task forces requires matching Social Security Numbers recorded by both components, matching FBI Numbers recorded by both components, or matching names and dates of birth recorded by both components.

  3. For example, the FBI reported that a Safe Streets Task Force arrested one individual on September 15, 2003, in Michigan. The USMS reported that a Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested that same individual on the same date in Georgia.

  4. Suspects are booked up to three times after a single federal arrest: (1) by the agency that makes the arrest; (2) by the USMS prior to confinement and transportation; and (3) by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. See Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, The Joint Automated Booking System, Audit Report Number 05-22, May 2005, pp. 2-3.

  5. The FBI also acknowledged that based on its case file review, two arrests were erroneously reported to the OIG because they were improperly coded as FBI arrests in the FBI’s database. The FBI reported that USMS task forces actually made these two arrests.

  6. NCIC is a database that provides federal, state, and local law enforcement with information on criminal histories and open warrants. NCIC is not maintained in real time and is not a substitute for local deconfliction systems.

  7. OCDETF is a federal drug enforcement program that focuses resources on the disruption and dismantling of major drug trafficking organizations.



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