By Ann Boehm, April 10, 2019
I spent the majority of my 26-year federal career working for law enforcement agencies. I once had a relative ask me, “Ann, why do you like to work with bad a–es?” (Law enforcement officers typically chuckle when I tell them that story.) I will tell you why. Going to work every day is much easier when you support people who run into gun fire instead of away from it. Too often, we forget about the value and valor of those who protect us on a daily basis.
I was inspired to write this month’s Good News on federal law enforcement officers after I read a Washington Post article about law enforcement efforts at the oft-maligned Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Yep, the DVA has law enforcement — apparently 4,700 sworn officers — as do many agencies other than the ones with the letters we typically recognized (you know, ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE, USMS). DVA law enforcement officers in Long Beach, Calif., are teaming with local law enforcement and social workers to help veterans on the brink. In response to emergency calls, an officer and social worker will respond to critical situations involving veterans. Instead of just arresting the troubled veteran, the officers try to get him or her the help needed to address the demons driving the behavior. They are having success, and the program may serve as a model to be implemented elsewhere.
Federal law enforcement officers do many things. A quick search of law enforcement jobs in USAJOBS revealed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, IRS, Small Business Administration, and State Department are all hiring law enforcement officers right now. Who knew?
And these jobs are not easy. Anyone watch Narcos? It scares me to watch it, but real-life DEA special agents really worked in that world. I heard their stories. They talked casually about their work in Colombia. I once met with a DEA agent who had the newspaper front page of the shot-up Pablo Escobar behind his desk – let me tell you, it was gory – because he was there when DEA agents took Escobar down! Crazy stuff! And this kind of fearless crime fighting is happening every day, whether the American people know it or not.
It’s worth noting that many federal law enforcement officers were among those “essential” workers during the 35-day shutdown who worked as hard as they always do yet did not get paid. I personally believe that appearances on the national news by Tom O’Connor, President of the FBI Agents Association, helped end the shutdown. Congress and the public don’t like to hear that criminal investigations are being compromised and hard-working agents cannot pay for medical treatment for their families. The report summarizing these things is compelling.
Of course, law enforcement officers are also human beings, and sometimes they engage in misconduct. Those who manage law enforcement officers may not realize that federal personnel law expects law enforcement officers to be held to a higher standard than the rank and file government employees when it comes to misconduct penalties. Also, great criminal investigators do not always know how to conduct a useful administrative misconduct investigation.
We at FELTG value our federal law enforcement friends, and we want to help them all be the best they can be. We offer a training course specifically for law enforcement personnel. Reach out to us if you’d like us to come to your agency. We want the good folks who protect us to work in an environment free of toxic co-workers. When it comes to public safety and people’s lives, there is no room for problem employees.
The Good News is that we have wonderful and dedicated law enforcement personnel in many, many federal agencies who are taking care of the American public. Thank you and stay safe! Boehm@FELTG.com