NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Interior Department Fields Far-Flung and "Poorly Managed" Police Force

November 4, 2002

The Department of the Interior runs the third-largest law enforcement contingent in the federal government -- employing 4,352 uniformed and plain-clothes officers as of the middle of last year.

A recent government audit found those forces so badly managed that the department was unable to provide even "the number and location of law enforcement personnel that could assist" after the Sept. 11 attacks.

  • The officers are scattered through seven agencies: the National Park Service; the U.S. Park Police; the Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Law Enforcement, and its office of Wildlife Refuges; the Bureau of Land Management; and the Bureau of Reclamation.
  • The officers protect everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Alaska pipeline, which -- along with numerous other sites -- have been the subject of terrorism threats.
  • Yet few of the agencies have intelligence or terrorism offices -- or the ability to gather crime and enforcement statistics.
  • Auditors have long described Interior's police officers as ill trained, poorly managed, dysfunctional and -- in some instances -- corrupt.

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton has created a new post of director of law enforcement and security and appointed a former senior FBI official to it. But the challenges are great.

For example, the department is charged with the security not only of every federal monument, but also of nearly 350 dams -- including Hoover Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam. Officials view some of these remote sites as ideal targets for terrorists -- especially the dams.

Source: Joel Brinkley, "Interior Department Struggles to Upgrade Its Police Forces," New York Times, November 4, 2002.

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