The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the bureaucracy responsible for waging the War on Drugs, appears to take a do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do approach towards employee accountability.
First there was the revelation earlier this year that DEA agents attended drug cartel-funded “sex parties” with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia.
In the wake of congressional testimony about the incident, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart resigned, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether the DEA is properly punishing wrongdoing among its agents.
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….
…Records from the DEA’s disciplinary files show that was hardly the only instance in which the DEA opted not to fire employees despite apparently serious misconduct.
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.
According to the newly obtained information, previously revealed drug-fueled sex parties were just the tip of the iceberg. DEA agents can apparently fail random drug tests, drive and damage government vehicles while drunk, falsify documents, lie about the discharging of weapons, sexually harass others—even sell drugs—and not only stay out of prison, but keep their jobs.
The DEA’s internal affairs log shows investigators review more than 200 cases each year and often clear the agents involved. When they do find wrongdoing, the most common outcome is a either a letter of caution — the lightest form of discipline the agency can impose — or a brief unpaid suspension.
In fewer than 6% of those cases did DEA managers recommend firing. In some of those cases, the agency allowed employees to quit. More often, it settled on a lesser punishment… Even when employees are fired, records show the punishment doesn’t always stick because the agents were reinstated by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, the independent body that reviews federal disciplinary matters.
These double standards, set for those who are supposed to be enforcing our laws, are nothing short of outrageous. It’s especially enraging considering the fact that our prisons are overcrowded with individuals doing time for drug charges, many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds and should be treated for addiction rather than thrown behind bars.
Unfortunately, the situation at the DEA reinforces the idea that if you have access to power, you’re above the law; a sad reality that flies in the face of the notion that justice should be blind. Today, more than half of federal prisoners are incarcerated as a result of drug charges, yet if a DEA agent engages in the same activity, he or she can apparently get off, in most cases, with a mere slap on the wrist.
Hopefully, Congress and the Department of Justice will do the right thing and force accountability within the DEA. Given the pace and efficiency of federal bureaucracy, however, we shouldn’t hold our breath.