Club DEA: Where The Party And Paychecks Never Stop
Oct. 1, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — The phrase “DEA agents engaged in sex parties with prostitutes paid for with drug money by Colombian cartels” sounds like a hokey episode of “Law & Order” or a bad headline from TMZ. One would expect such a headline to be the stuff of fiction, given the Drug Enforcement Administration is charged with keeping illegal substances out of our country and a stranglehold on the failed experiment that is our War on Drugs. If that is one’s expectation, prepare to have it dashed immediately:
For years, Drug Enforcement Administration agents posted in Colombia engaged in sex parties involving prostitutes who were supplied by local drug cartels, a Justice Department review found Thursday.
The Justice inspector general’s inquiry, which examined how federal law enforcement agencies handled sexual misconduct and harassment reports, concluded that seven of 10 agents allegedly involved admitted attending the parties in Colombia where a local police officer often stood guard, protecting the agents’ firearms and other property.
In addition, the report found, three of the DEA agents — all described as supervisory special agents — were “provided money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members.’’
Of course, an “internal investigation” was launched as soon as news of these agents’ conduct hit national headlines. The conduct was so egregious, so outside of the standard we expect from law enforcement, that one would think the agents found to have committed such conduct would be fired immediately.
If you are one of those people who think that would be the inevitable solution, your would be sadly mistaken:
Although the misconduct jeopardized the agents’ security clearances, the matter was never referred to the agency’s Office of Security Programs for review, and the agents were issued suspensions ranging from two to 10 days.
Surely this was a suspension for the purposes of internal investigation, and the DEA agents found guilty of such egregious misconduct were eventually fired. Again, if you are the sort who thinks such positive thoughts, you are still quite wrong.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, newly disclosed records show.
Lawmakers expressed dismay this year that the drug agency had not fired agents who investigators found attended “sex parties” with prostitutes paid with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia. The Justice Department also opened an inquiry into whether the DEA is able to adequately detect and punish wrongdoing by its agents.
After a bit of a review, it appears terminating a DEA agent is quite the Herculean task:
Of the 50 employees the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct recommended be fired following misconduct investigations opened since 2010, only 13 were actually terminated, the records show. And the drug agency was forced to take some of them back after a federal appeals board intervened.
It’s hard enough to terminate a local police officer or state trooper for misconduct. They’ve got all manner of oversight, including their own special bill of rights that allow them abilities and privileges the average citizen will never see. That special blanket of insulation allows police at the state level to get away with a mentality where haranguing a pregnant woman in full sight of video isn’t enough to deter misconduct. Federal employees, however, appear to be so immune from termination that it’s a surprise to those who are tasked with watching the watchmen if one actually does get the axe.
“If we conducted an investigation, and an employee actually got terminated, I was surprised,” said Carl Pike, a former DEA internal affairs investigator. “I was truly, truly surprised. Like, wow, the system actually got this guy.”
The current system in place allows any number of egregious offenses to end with a punishment that equals a slap on the wrist for a federal law enforcement employee. With over 200 cases of misconduct lodged each year, fewer than six percent end with a recommendation of the agent being terminated from employment. Usually, they are allowed to resign instead of being terminated outright. Former DEA employees will be happy to explain the rationale to you:
“DEA agents should be held to a high standard, but not an unrealistically high standard,” said Scott Ando, a former internal affairs investigator for the agency who now heads Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority. “You can’t expect every agent to get fired for every transgression because they’re people and they sometimes make mistakes.”
Those transgressions the DEA and the Board of Professional Conduct deem fireable offenses include using DEA-issued fully automatic weapons for a private security business’ training and crashing government vehicles during a drunken rampage in the Bahamas. Sex parties paid for by drug lords and keeping a college student locked in a holding cell for five days without food and water, not so much.
People wonder why we are transfixed with discussing the continued misconduct of police, both federal and State, here at Fault Lines, as well as the continued brushing aside of said misconduct by government officials. The seeming hopelessness of keeping the DEA accountable made me question writing about it until some words by fellow contributor Ken Womble made bringing this chronicle of failure to punish bad behavior important for publication:
There is so much wrong with our system but the way we fight that is to open our mouths and tell our stories. That is why the Fault Lines project is so important. Police in this country have remained untouchable because we refuse to touch them. We are witnessing a cultural shift in the way people see cops. The stories of police abuse that are so common to Brooklyn are now common everywhere. With each story, the great American jury pool is turning.
Every story strips away at the phantasmic shield of law enforcement being the great bastions of truth, justice and the American way. Every account of police literally getting away with murder we document in these pages means one more person will understand law enforcement at all levels are not worthy of the praise and adulation we heap on them any more. It’s a tireless fight, but, as Ken said, we are winning the war through the information we share.
If those tasked with keeping our nation’s law enforcement officers accountable won’t do their damn jobs, it’s left to us to speak until there’s no more room for excuses.