Federal Turf Wars E-mail

According to a recent survey from the Government Accountability Office, a full third of federal agents surveyed have gotten into turf wars with other federal law enforcement agencies during the course of an investigation during the past five years.

Out of that third of the agents that said they had experienced turf battles, 78 percent said those disagreements negatively affected the investigation.

The GAO randomly surveyed 315 field agents who work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

All of those agencies are within the Justice Department. The four agencies have widely overlapping jurisdiction when it comes to drugs, gang violence, firearms, explosives, arson and the apprehension of fugitives.

According to the GAO survey, 24 percent of the agents who reported negative consequences over agency squabbles said a fugitive wasn't apprehended as a direct result of the squabbling.

Majorities of those who reported negative consequences said the turf wars resulted in prolonged investigations, low morale, the unnecessary use of resources and the unwillingness of federal partners to work with each other.

Overall, 27 percent of agents said that within the past 5 years they have been aware of instances where they did not receive relevant information from another DOJ law enforcement component that was related to an ongoing investigation.

Last August, a top DOJ official ordered the ATF and FBI to end squabbles at the scenes of explosives incidents.
But the GAO report found that little has changed in close to a year.

Just 45 percent of FBI agents surveyed were "very clear" on the bureau's role in explosives investigations.
The new GAO report recommends that DOJ "assess options to better identify and diagnose disagreements in the field and take action to limit the negative impacts from disagreements over jurisdictional overlap for some criminal investigations."


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