Despite a plethora of offenses documented in a 5-year period including failing drug tests, losing and stealing firearms, committing DWI, distributing drugs, falsifying records, and sexual harassment perpetrated by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) employees, punishment beyond a written warning or brief suspension for serious misconduct is a rare consequence.
According to a report from USA Today, “The DEA’s internal affairs log shows investigators review more than 200 cases each year and often clear the agents involved.”
DEA discipline logs obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act request show that between 2010 and 2015, most cases of employee misconduct resulted in letters of caution, letters of reprimand, or short-term suspensions. Letters of caution differ from letters of reprimand which remain on an employee’s record; caution letters are not official disciplinary actions and do not become part of an employee’s record.
Offenses identified in the the logs include but are not limited to failing random drug tests; losing firearms; stealing firearms; DWI arrests; falsifying records; stealing evidence; improper use of government credit cards; creation of false documents; “improper association with a criminal element”; numerous cases of alcohol-related incidents violating agency policy; misusing government property; sexual harassment; and cases of failure to follow instructions. The log identifying offenses from 2010-2015 can be seen here.
Out of 50 DEA employees who were recommended to be terminated by the agency’s Board of Professional Conduct, 13 were actually fired. Some of those 13 ended up being reinstated due to federal appeals.
One employee who was recommended to be fired for distributing drugs received a 2-week suspension instead.
“If we conducted an investigation, and an employee actually got terminated, I was surprised,” said Carl Pike, a former internal affairs investigator for the DEA. “I was truly, truly surprised. Like, wow, the system actually got this guy.”
The release of these DEA discipline logs are on the heels of the Department Of Justice’s recent scrutiny of the agency following a DOJ inspector general report, released in March, that described how DEA agents attended sex parties funded by Colombian drug cartels.
“DEA agents stationed in places like Colombia let local police watch their weapons and other personal items as they engaged in hedonistic sex parties in their taxpayer-funded living quarters with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels. Ten agents confessed to attending the parties, some of whom were disciplined with suspensions lasting between two to ten days,” wrote Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan.
About a month after news of the sex party scandal broke, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart announced her resignation. A week before resigning, Leonhart was pressed by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to explain why she hadn’t fired the agents. She replied that federal law prohibits that action.
“If somebody murdered somebody, could you fire him?” asked Gowdy.
“If someone murdered someone, there would be criminal charges, and that’s how they would be fired,” Leonhart responded.