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Local Officials Say FBI Refuses to Cooperate

November 14, 2001  | 

Two months after state and local law enforcement officials found themselves forced onto the front lines of a global war on terrorism, many are complaining that the F.B.I. is refusing to provide them with the information they need to protect their communities.

"There's real frustration," said Bill Berger, president of IACP and police chief of North Miami Beach, Fla. He said that despite repeated pledges from the bureau to step up cooperation after Sept. 11, he was still receiving complaints from his fellow chiefs. "I don't think that we can afford to have these impediments to information any longer," the chief said. "Some of these terrorists were living in our communities."

The bureau's new director, Robert S. Mueller III, has acknowledged problems in communication between the FBI and local law enforcement agencies and pledges to make a concerted effort to correct the problem.

But the frustration of state and local officials has already been communicated to Congress, where a bipartisan group of senators is supporting a bill to lift a variety of restrictions on intelligence sharing between the F.B.I. and state and local law enforcement officials. However, complaints from the local authorities are not limited to intelligence sharing.

Many police departments say the bureau is passing up a valuable resource by failing to allow local police to follow up on the tips that have overwhelmed the F.B.I.'s 11,000 agents since Sept. 11 and is hampering their ability to protect their communities.

"There are 650,000 cops in this country, and we should all be used in this hunt," said Edward T. Norris, Baltimore's police commissioner. "There are leads that the F.B.I. can't possibly find the time to run down. We've got experienced investigators who can run them out."

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