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Columns : The Federal Voice

Militarization or Officer Safety Precautions?

A bill authored by a Utah congressman seeks to disarm agents who work for inspector general offices because they look too scary.

August 26, 2014  |  by Jon Adler

Seizing upon the naive theme that law enforcement has become over militarized, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) recently introduced a bill titled "The Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act" (H.R. 4934) that would disarm most Inspector General (IG) criminal investigators. His bill would revoke most IG agents' law enforcement authority and take away their authority to carry firearms and to make arrests. Stewart and his staff have publicly referred to this bill as the "RAD Act."

Both the bill's title and its content belittle IG special agents by referring to them as "regulators" who are militarized in their appearance and tactics. Unfortunately, in reaching his misguided conclusions, Stewart failed to objectively assess the vast accomplishments of IG special agents, their professional tactical training, and the risks they face enforcing the law.

Consider these examples.

  • The Department of Labor's IG special agents work labor racketeering investigations. In the past three years, the agents' efforts resulted in 1,277 criminal convictions and $679 million in recoveries. This includes hardened defendants involved in organized crime.
  • The Social Security Administration's IG also employs criminal investigators who are at the forefront in investigating identity theft. A recent notable case involved the apprehension of a violent fugitive who eluded capture by hiding behind two stolen identities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services' IG employs special agents to investigate a variety of crimes. Last month these agents played a pivotal role in the charging of six defendants for allegedly running an illegal prescription drug operation.

In addition to the criminal prosecutions their investigations trigger, IG special agents bring in billions of dollars in case recoveries. If these agents were unwilling to accept considerable risk in the arrest of these criminals, there would be no financial recoveries. If criminals were permitted to shamefully defraud HHS, how would that weigh on taxpayer trust?

It is ignorant to suggest the vast investigative responsibilities of the IG special agents can be absorbed by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. All federal law enforcement agencies endured critical cuts during the last three years from the sequester and the budget freezes, and no agency has the resources to absorb the duties of another agency.

And why are Stewart and other elected officials using the term "militarization" as if it's the plague? Law enforcement has drawn on the principles of small-unit military tactics to improve enforcement efficiency and officer safety. Examples of these tactics include stacking in a certain formation prior to entering on a warrant and the manner in which a team effects entry. It may shock Stewart to learn that the more efficient law enforcement is, the less likely it is anyone will sustain injury during service of a warrant.

Rep Stewart's RAD bill mischaracterizes properly equipped federal agents asserting a police presence as being "militarized." Prudent steps for officer safety should not be misconstrued as militarization.

Stewart disparages the risks IG special agents face by referring to them as "...regulators armed to the teeth and breaking into homes and businesses." Contrary to this misguided assertion, special agents aren't thugs who break into homes. They breach doors as a last resort when a nonā€compliant subject ignores their warrants and their lawful authority. Is it Stewart's intention to cater to individuals who think they're above the law and are not subject to federal laws?

Rep. Stewart also alleges in his RAD bill that IG special agents are militarized in appearance. I guess he thinks they dress up in armor and carry AR-15s because it looks cool.

IG special agents are not playing in some nefarious masquerade where they dress up like Ninja Turtles for giggles; they are engaging in enforcement operations and facing armed criminals.

It is also important to note that if, as Stewart alleges, some IG special agents have acted like soldiers gone wild, their actions are subject to internal investigation by units like Internal Affairs, and even the FBI. Considering this insufficient, Stewart wants to disarm IG special agents, leaving government institutions vulnerable to criminal fraud. There isn't anything "rad" about Congressman Stewart's RAD bill.

Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

forrest @ 8/26/2014 2:32 PM

While I agree that this bill is bad, I can see the reasoning behind it. Police militarization has gotten out of hand in this country and citizens want it to stop.

Between cases of SWAT officers throwing stun grenades into the crib of a baby during a raid on the wrong house and reports of officers being given AH-64 attack helicopters and bayonets by the military, it's not hard to see that lines are being crossed by officers who are asked to "protect and serve."

As a former infantry soldier, I know the purpose of the bayonet. It was drilled into my mind during training to the point that I repeat the mantra in my head any time I see one. I do NOT want police officers in my city armed with bayonets chanting "kill, kill, kill with the cold blue steel," as they work dangerous scenes.

Maybe, as officers, it's time to step back and look at what us, as civilians, see when we look at officers with baclavas over their faces pointing rifles at unarmed civilians.

Bill @ 8/27/2014 8:20 AM

Excellent points forrest. I too, remember my bayonet training. What we are seeing with SWAT today is nothing less than mission creep.

SWAT of yester-years were tasked with hostage situations, barricaded individuals, known violent offenders, et cetera.

Today's SWAT is being used to serve ambiguous drug/bench warrants. Often times these warrants are issued by a judge relying on equally ambiguous 'confidential informants'. Add to that the 'rapid response' units that are being used in so-called 'swatting', where a disgruntled individual makes an anonymous call against another prompting an unwarranted response from SWAT.

These abuses/failures are fomenting discord between 'We The People' and law enforcers. We are all neighbors, and for better or worse, the people and the LEO's are married.

Mike @ 8/27/2014 6:31 PM

Guys, you are reading to many comic books. No Law Enforcement Agency in America operates an AH-64 attack helicopter. No LEOs are trained in the use of the bayonet. NONE, Nota, not one.
I don't know of a single Officer who wants to do anything other than protect their community from law breakers and thugs.
Protect the innocent....That's our mission give me a break.....

Lee @ 8/28/2014 4:18 PM

^^Well said Mike...I dont know where their information is coming from,,,but it is definitely off the wall stuff...

lou @ 8/28/2014 5:18 PM

In America, the public rules and gets to set the parameters, policies, and standards expected of their employees. If the public says to their employees to stop operating the way they are, the employee has two choices: adapt, or move on to another line of work. Civil services is a voluntary endeavor. You opted in, and you can opt out, and in sum, you serve at the pleasure of the citizen taxpayer. We are now observing a push back by the employer. It is time for less talking, and more listening.

GP Cobb @ 8/28/2014 7:03 PM

@Lou: well spoken. Week in and week out I am less pleased with policing out here in the middle of nowhere. I'm not impressed as a taxpayer and I been at it seventy plus years. If I was at the helm be more carryin going on and some firing........ Percentage wise, there is ten times more violence now than post civil war in the so called 'wild wild west' Tired of being pushed around by ticket writers who won't get out and do real police work. As you say, opt in or opt out... No matter to me. JMO

Tony @ 8/28/2014 10:32 PM

I agree, I think every law enforcement officer should walk off the job. They have way to much power and they really don't protect the public. I think Congress would do a better job.

monte @ 8/29/2014 1:12 AM

Give me a break, congress cant even police them selves as it stands now. I agree that police need to do a better job of policing them selfs.

Reg @ 8/29/2014 8:23 AM

I have to agree with Bill as a former SWAT Team Leader and Instructor I have seen the 'Mission Creep". Long gone are the days when SWAT was utilized as a surgical/strategic tool, now they seem to be the hammer and everything looks like a nail. In some jurisdictions SWAT handles ALL warrants. Perhaps there needs to be a utilization "check list" that will stand up to civilian review/scrutiny.

me @ 8/30/2014 6:15 PM

Tools and tactics evolve with the times. Its called survival of the fittest. Its plain common sence. If you thumb-sucking weinies think you can conduct investigations and arrests without strength of arms and well adapted tactics, then i whole heartedly invite your efforts. The criminals will rid the gene pool of your waste in no time whatsoever. Good riddance to you.

Havent you geniouses figured out yet that these officers are people too - with as much right to live as you. If you want them dead, say so! Dont hide behind bulls#!/ words like "militarization".

I will never again work a job that requires me to carry a gun and you pathetic pieces of arrogant human waste are why. No, I damned wl will NOT kay down my life and leave my family behind for the likes of trash like you. Fight your own damn battles. Ifsime dirtbag murders you, well soup-for-brains, maybe you should have been a little "militarized".

Now pick on my spelling instead of using your brain for any introspection. Trash.

Richard Hightower @ 9/2/2014 6:05 AM

No -- I agree with the Representative from Utah in this instance. These various departments of government REGLATORY agencies are not suppose to be LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS. They are indeed Regulators and decidedly not LEOs. If there is criminality then we have a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) -- which is a proper law enforcement arm of government -- that should be handling criminal investigations.

Rob Watson @ 9/11/2014 4:52 PM

Having been on both sides of the uniform I would like to see every agency participate in outreach programs to the adults in a community. Not the kids, the parents and give us reason to believe that military uniformed agents of the government are not arming themselves against normal people. The gulf is getting larger every day between LEO's and CITZ's and we need to meet in the middle somewhere and dissolve the fears by showing that we are all on the same side. Thanks for your service and thanks for your protection, but stop being the ones we fear to become like the Nazi SS or the KGB of America. These fears are not fabricated. They are real as we grow further and further apart guys.

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