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Columns : The Federal Voice

Turn In Your Guns

HUD’s Office of the Inspector General disarmed its agents during the October government shutdown.

December 23, 2013  |  by Jon Adler

When the federal government shut down on Oct. 1, the law enforcement credo “Officer Safety First” eluded executives at the HUD Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Rather than recognize the risks faced by its furloughed officers, HUD-OIG opted to make the special agents' non-pay status worse by snatching their guns away. This left approximately 300 special agents both unarmed and unpaid.

By ordering all furloughed special agents to store their government-issued weapons, the agency articulated its priority concern—its liability exposure if agents carried during the shutdown. The agency’s faulty reasoning was that all government "assets" needed to be turned in, and the agents would be outside their suspended scope if they were to carry government-issued weapons.

Not content at forcing agents to surrender their weapons, HUD-OIG then warned its agents they were prohibited from carrying their personally owned weapons with their government credentials. Agents were told they could carry their personally owned weapons on a state permit only.

Ten federal law enforcement agencies furloughed agents/officers during the shutdown, only HUD-OIG required agents to turn in their weapons. HUD-OIG agents have statutory 24/7 carry authority, and they routinely execute search and arrest warrants. Which means the possibility that they might bump into one of their former subjects is very real. Apparently, those executives sitting in comfortable chairs at HUD-OIG HQ were unable and unwilling to see this danger.

On Oct. 4 in an attempt to inspire HUD-OIG to reconsider its position, FLEOA General Counsel Larry Berger sent the agency a legal opinion in support of the need for the agents to continue carrying their firearms while furloughed. Berger went unanswered. HUD-OIG agents continued to communicate with FLEOA, expressing legitimate safety concerns. Unfortunately, Berger's opinion and the concerns of their officers went unanswered by HUD-OIG brass.

Perhaps both the legal logic and heartfelt concerns for agent safety expressed in Berger's legal opinion were too much for the HUD-OIG executive team to digest. To wit, Berger stated, "This directive creates an unacceptable risk to agent safety and is unnecessary in light of standing statutory authority, which authorizes special agents to conceal carry authorized weapons without regard to leave status."

In an attempt to clarify the agency command's misunderstanding regarding the agents' status, Berger wrote, "During any furlough period, individuals remain employees of the agency. Agents do not cease being employees or law enforcement officers during any furlough or off-duty periods."

Berger added: "While it is accurate that an agent in a furlough status is not authorized to further the agency mission, it is also the case that agents in a non-mission status (whether furloughed or otherwise) have the authority to use deadly force to protect individuals as well as themselves from harm."

FLEOA tried to broker a compromise to ensure the agents' safety. I sent an e-mail to the HUD inspector general and asked if the IG had time to briefly discuss this critical agent safety issue. Silence.

If the IG had taken that meeting, I was prepared to recommend the IG issue a memo to officers that they are permitted to carry their firearms for personal protection only. This would assuage the IG’s liability concerns while affording the agents the right to protect themselves during the furlough.

On Oct. 16th, I received a voicemail at FLEOA from an attorney at HUD-OIG. I asked my vice president to call him back, but the attorney was unwilling to speak to him. He communicated, in effect, that if I wanted to speak to him, I could call him myself.

Again, setting aside ego, FLEOA personnel attempted to communicate with the HUD-IG. Finally, on Oct. 25 (eight days after the furloughs ended), FLEOA received an e-mail from a HUD-OIG HQ secretary stating the IG was busy in November and wouldn't have time to meet.

FLEOA subsequently attempted to enlist President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s support. Unfortunately we were told that ethics precluded the President or Vice President from intervening on agency policy issues.

So with the prospect of sequester furloughs ahead, HUD-OIG agents remain at great risk. In spite of HUD-OIG's misguided reticence, FLEOA will continue to advocate on behalf of the safety of the dedicated federal officers and agents in the field.

Comments (18)

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18

Lloyd Reese @ 12/23/2013 5:49 PM

Unfortunate that article did not reference what other IG offices did. If their agents remained armed with agency credentials while furloghed, HUD would really look stupid.
Have a feeling that this administration's anti-gun stance may have played a role.

C.G.Ellis @ 12/23/2013 6:04 PM

Hope the tea-baggers that caused this are happy.
The alternative is obvious.....Dual Commissions with a local LEO agency on the Agent/Officers part. In TEXAS the Rangers have statewide authority and jurisdiction under DPS, and are also Special Deputy UNITED STATES MARSHALLS, BY dual commissions. County Sheriffs, or Constables would be happy to commission any Federal LEO.

C.G.Ellis @ 12/23/2013 6:06 PM

Dual Commissions with a County asheriff or Constable would help to solve the problem

Mike Check @ 12/23/2013 7:05 PM

"Hope the tea-baggers that caused this are happy." What did the tea-baggers have to do with it? Do they have that much power?

Jeremy David Young @ 12/23/2013 7:38 PM

People, People, People... Everyone is to blame, not just the Conservatives. Liberals and Conservatives all did not budge for anything. So not just one entity.

Secondly, I would have to agree with Jon. People sitting behind a desk making decisions like that are what cause improper Officer Safety techniques. If that is happening, might I suggest, unless barred by Regulation or Policies, that these agents get properly licensed in the states they live in, as Concealed Carry Weapons holders. If they are not confident in themselves or their administration, do that and they can feel better. Because of the changing world we live in, maybe we all are not as confident in our skills to keep our cases in check, therefore, arm up if you are that concerned. That way you can feel better about being protected.

Serpico @ 12/23/2013 10:46 PM

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "--->trolling"<---). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.
So using the term Teabaggers isn't being a troll? I'm for Freedom of Speech etc. Unlike C.G.Ellis I defend Freedom of speech for everyone. Even if I disagree with him/her. BTW The Dept. of Edu and other Alphabet Agencies are armed to the TEETH? DHS is handing out Glocks like Lollypops, and have bought millions of Rounds of fresh Ammo. I'm not throwing a Pity Party for HUD. They can protect themselves. Do your own RESEARCH! If you want to blame anyone for this Disarming how about Eric Holder or the King in the White House? Seems like the only people in the USA with lots of Guns, those protecting the WH, and the lemmings who will leap off a cliff for their masters

Jack Betz @ 12/23/2013 11:42 PM

I am a Texas CHL instucter. If their are any HUD-OIG in the DFW area, contact me at [email protected] You just earned a free class.

Fed Chief @ 12/24/2013 7:15 AM

C.G.Ellis: The Tea Party had nothing, I repeat nothing to do with HUD-OIG's decision to put their agents at risk. You need to stay on Yahoo and make your biased comments there

IBM64 @ 12/24/2013 8:41 AM

This is embarrassing, Stop the world, I want to get off.

Kev cop @ 12/24/2013 10:58 AM

I may be of a differing opinion, Why do HUD and many like agencies even have weapons? If and when they do need REAL police for a criminal event (warrant etc0 then they can call uniformed Federal protective services, FBI (etc) or LEOs. There are way too many armed "agents" that are no more than book keepers. Really? feds ignore Federal Immigration Laws, Marijuana Laws (real crimes) and want to be armed to enforce simple regulatory rules? Geez we really need EPA PD and others like that? Get real, you would not know what it would be like to be a real Law Enforcement Officer! Danger, yeah of getting paid after your two weeks off on the tax payers (LEOs don't when furloughed) or maybe a paper cut? When is the last time HUD had an "agent" shot? In AZ Federal agents have NO ENFORCEMENT powers at all other then Federal Law,when we LEOS ask for help(Fed law) they find excuses not to help since we have the gaul to challenge the feds to DO THIER JOBS on Immigration in AZ,pisses them of

Capt. Crunch @ 12/24/2013 11:59 AM

What should concern everyone is our lost of rights, if the gun grabbers can do this to one law enforcement (LEA) and get away with it, then many more LEA'S are in danger.

Capt. Crunch @ 12/24/2013 11:59 AM

What should concern everyone is our lost of rights, if the gun grabbers can do this to one law enforcement (LEA) and get away with it, then many more LEA'S are in danger.

A Law Enforcement Officer @ 12/25/2013 5:26 PM

Hard to believe that C.G.Ellis is serious with his response @ 12/23/2013 6:04 PM Hope the tea-baggers that caused this are happy.

I don't think the "tea party" is really one of the two parties in Congress nor that they or the GOP shut down Government as the Democrats and President Obama were the ones who refused to meet and negotiate on the budget. The Senate has not done a budget in years and Congress has not followed one or stopped it's wasteful spending that causes higher debts.

C.G. Ellis should review the real facts, not give Democratic talking points and either way, the Democratic leadership and Administration made this policy for the agency, not the tea party or even Congress, so this is a silly comment.

A Law Enforcement Officer @ 12/25/2013 5:39 PM

Kev Cop is absolutely correct in their questioning of why so many Federal Agencies feel the need to have armed operatives, some actually sworn with law enforcement powers but most just armed Fed employees. We have both local, state and some sworn Federal officers that can handle law enforcement duties or the search, service of process or warrants or other real police type duties. One of the real scares in America now is DHS and some of the Federal agencies who have these heavily armed Operatives and feel they need to use Federal powers to handle local issues of police work.

We have too many Federal Police or other sworn or armed folks who don't really have a real need other than to enforce or do the Governments work that is really up to the city, county, state or other officials, not a Govt issue.

Retired fed @ 12/26/2013 7:10 PM

After reading the comments, I was reminded why there is a need for the federal government.

Don from CT @ 1/6/2014 3:25 PM

Here is the reality: Nobody in Congress, left or right, dem or R thought that the Obama administration was going to go as far as they did. There are emails, memos, and anecdotal evidence that once the shutdown was "on" the Obama admin issued orders to management in much of the executive branch to "make it hurt" as much as possible.

They took web sites off line for god sakes. They put barriers around monuments that didn't require any attendants. This was just part of their effort to make it hurt.

One other thought. How terrible it is that the police suddenly are subject to the laws of their own states. Interesting, the cops in VT and AZ didn't have any problems because citizens don't need a license from their state to carry.

If you want to make sure cops aren't disarmed, work to make sure that ALL non prohibited citizens have equal access to firearms.

HBH @ 1/27/2014 5:04 PM

C.G.Ellis is an idiot !

Dave @ 4/12/2015 3:43 PM

For all the anti federal law enforcement types, keep living in your little bubbles. You don't know enough about federal law enforcement to even get hired!

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