Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
It is probably not fair to assign a grade to John Ashcroft for his performance as the nation’s “top cop” over the past 12 months. There are too many variables, and not all of the information is yet in. But it is still possible to look back from where we are now. As an administrator, the attorney general has both direct and indirect influence and power over most of the law enforcement officers in the country. There are more than 17,000 local and state police departments in the United States. The New York Police Department employs almost 40,000 sworn officers; the next largest city employs about one-third that number. Not even 100 police forces have at least 1,000 officers, and fewer than a thousand departments employ a minimum of 100 officers. In short, we are largely a nation of small towns with local policing. But through various investigative steps, oversight mechanisms and funding, the attorney general can apply pressure on departments to perform or behave in a certain way. There are also approximately 65 federal agencies with law enforcement powers and responsibilities. Collectively they employ more than 85,000 special agents and police officers. Four Department of Justice agencies reporting directly to the attorney general — the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Marshals Service — account for more than 40 percent of the federal officers. Here, his oversight is more direct. FUNDING LOCAL EFFORTS One measure of power over policing is funding. Early in Ashcroft’s tenure, there was already a move to reallocate federal dollars that supported local police hiring and training. Federal funding for a range of community-oriented programs exceeded $1 billion annually nationwide toward the end of the Clinton administration. Such funding was cut to about three quarters of a billion dollars last year and was headed to $164 million this past year. As reported by a DOJ office during May 2002, the Bush administration intended to use the transferred funds for anti-terrorism programs. Perhaps this shift in funding is justified and more tolerable to local departments after Sept. 11, but there seems to be a blockage in the money pipeline. In a recent New York Daily News article, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was quoted as saying that between $500 million and $700 million was needed for training, resources and equipment to fight terrorism. He further noted, “There is $3.5 billion languishing in Congress, and we are not going to get anything before the coming 9/11.” Newsday not long ago attributed similar sentiments to the director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, who indicated, “Not one additional resource has been provided even though all first-response comes locally.” Both of these thoughts are against the backdrop of comments by President George W. Bush, as reported in The New York Times, stating that “he would not spend $5.1 billion approved by Congress last month for domestic security.” If one role of the attorney general is as criminal justice adviser to the president, shouldn’t he be “pressuring” the White House to provide more financial assistance to local police departments? CONTENTION OVER PROFILING Another point of contention is review of police behavior and practices. Over the past several years there has been a great deal of media attention, civil litigation and federal investigation into police practices that have become known as “racial profiling.” The FBI is a partner in many police criminal investigations — but is also an investigator of potential police abuses. Yet, soon after the attacks, the Justice Department requested local police departments to identify and interview, often in conjunction with the FBI, selected individuals or groups based primarily on ethnic considerations. Some police chiefs readily cooperated; others refused or at least protested. I do not want to be misunderstood. I firmly believe that all legal steps and investigative procedures must be aggressively used in pursuit of the perpetrators of Sept. 11. Some police may have engaged in wrongful profiling, but not all race- or ethnicity-based pursuits are automatically improper. I do not believe that the request amounted to profiling. But apparently the request was poorly communicated to the local policing community, resulting in the probably minor but vocal negative reaction. And it’s somewhat ironic that this result, even if unintended, came about from a policy originating with the same DOJ that normally seeks to prevent such practices. COORDINATING THE PIECES There’s also the issue of how well the attorney general is coordinating law enforcement efforts — both on the federal level itself, and between the federal and local levels. An August 2001 report from the General Accounting Office, based primarily on pre-Bush administration data, reported that the National Security Council had “identified 34 federal entities with significant roles in fighting international crime.” The report also noted that there “were no standard measures of effectiveness to assess the federal government’s overall efforts.” It’s important to note that there is a link between international crime and international terrorism. Another GAO report, from Sept. 20, 2001, noted that progress has been made to improve national preparedness. Furthermore, this September report noted that the DOJ and the FBI “have collaborated on a national threat and risk assessment, but they have not formally coordinated with other departments and agencies on this task.” More work could also be done with the local agencies. As a result of a March 2002 Criminal Intelligence Sharing Summit, the International Association of Chiefs of Police — the heads of those 17,000-plus local police agencies noted above — notes on its Web site that they should be partners, not adjuncts, in the fight against terrorism. They believe that there is a “unique potential for community oriented policing initiatives to aid in the gathering of locally driven intelligence.” The attorney general must become the nexus to synchronize all these efforts and entities. Reporter and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, co-author of “The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It,” has written that American law enforcement agencies were “ill-equipped for the war this new enemy had brought to U.S. shores.” That’s a major problem that the attorney general still needs to do much to solve. Robert J. Louden is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY in New York City. He served in the NYPD for 21 years, including six of those years as the chief hostage negotiator. He can be contacted at [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.