The DEA enforces federal laws and regulations related to the growth, production, or distribution of controlled substances. In addition, the DEA seeks to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally. The DEA has approximately 10,800 employees staffing its 21 division offices in the United States and 82 foreign offices in 62 countries.
The OIG’s Audit Division examined the DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) program, which was established in 1995 to help local law enforcement agencies, particularly those in rural areas, reduce drug-related violence and disrupt or dismantle methamphetamine traffickers and laboratories. In June 2007, the DEA discontinued the MET program, which operated in all 21 DEA domestic field division offices, due to budgetary constraints.
However, in FYs 2008 through 2010, Congress provided funding for the MET program and indicated that it should focus on methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs. As a result of this funding, the DEA established teams in 16 major cities across the United States.
The audit found that prior to its discontinuance in 2007, 56 percent of MET operations focused on methamphetamine trafficking. However, from May 2008 through January 2010, only 7 (26 percent) of 27 MET operations focused on methamphetamine production and trafficking. Given that Congress has consistently indicated that the MET program should include a focus on methamphetamine enforcement operations, we recommended that the DEA consider whether to use a greater percentage of its MET resources to combat methamphetamine trafficking.
The OIG also found that the operation of Mobile Enforcement Teams generally was not mobile. When the DEA restarted the MET program in FY 2008, DEA headquarters and field managers decided they could have more teams if they operated in metropolitan areas near DEA offices where MET operations did not require overnight travel. As a result, local law enforcement agencies in rural areas did not have the benefit of using the teams to address either methamphetamine or gang problems within their jurisdictions.
In addition, the OIG found that DEA managers did not always evaluate or were slow in evaluating the results of each MET operation. We also found that DEA managers sometimes used the wrong data to evaluate changes in crime rates in the geographic area where the MET operated.
The audit concluded that the DEA mobile teams have accomplished significant arrests, drug seizures, and drug trafficking organization disruptions or dismantlements, although the program’s primary focus has shifted from methamphetamine enforcement to reducing drug-related violence. The following chart shows aggregate arrests by division for all 27 MET deployments initiated from May 2008 through January 2010.
In addition to recommending that the DEA consider whether it should use more MET resources to address methamphetamine problems, the OIG also recommended that the DEA make improvements in deciding where METs should be deployed and in tracking and reporting on the results of MET operations. The report made six recommendations to improve the DEA’s MET program, and the DEA concurred with all of the recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 333 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included official misconduct; waste and mismanagement; and theft. The majority of the complaints were considered management issues and were provided to the DEA for its review and appropriate action.
During this reporting period, the OIG opened 12 and referred 17 allegations to the DEA’s OPR for action or investigation. At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 20 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegations were official misconduct; force, abuse, and rights violations; and fraud.
|Source: Investigations Data Management System|
The following is an example of a case involving the DEA that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- The OIG’s Washington Field Office conducted an investigation into allegations that a senior official of the DEA engaged in a sexual relationship with a subordinate employee. The senior official admitted to having a sexual relationship with a subordinate employee. He also admitted that during the affair, he recommended the employee for promotion to a hiring official. The OIG found that the senior official violated DEA policy and federal merit system principles. Following his interview with the OIG, the senior official retired from federal service.
Adoptive Seizure Process
State and local law enforcement agencies can seize property forfeited to them under state laws or they may transfer the property to a federal agency, such as the DEA, for forfeiture under federal laws. Seizures made by state and local law enforcement agencies that are accepted by a federal agency for processing under federal laws are known as “adoptive” seizures. The OIG is examining the DEA’s process for adopting seizures from state and local law enforcement agencies under the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program.
The OIG is examining the allocation and utilization of DEA personnel on narcotics-related investigations, and the number and types of drug investigations handled by the DEA.