I’m writing this piece for you today because eight years ago, the marijuana metabolites detected in my armpit hair led my employer to fire me from my information technology career after two years.
Too bad my life choices didn’t lead me to a career in the Drug Enforcement Administration.
There I could have enjoyed sex parties with prostitutes, beaten one of them over a payment dispute, taken gifts of money and weapons from drug cartels, falsified official records, driven impaired in my government vehicle, lost my firearm, lost my government notebook computer, hung out with criminals, distributed drugs and concealed that from my superiors, beat my spouse, beat a civilian, misused my authority, violated state law, violated people’s civil rights, sexually harassed co-workers, be arrested, accepted bribes, or most of all from my point of view, used drugs and failed a random drug test—and at worst, I’d face a suspension, but more likely, I’d just get a letter of caution or reprimand.
That’s the conclusion I made after reading a USA Today piece entitled, “DEA agents kept jobs despite serious misconduct”.
After the revelations of the DEA’s Colombian sex parties that cost Michele Leonhart her jobs as DEA Administrator, reporters dug in and found that of 50 employees that the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct recommended should be terminated for improper acts, only 13 were actually fired over the past five years. And even then, the DEA had to take back some of the fired agents after other agencies intervened on their behalf.
Reading the official log from 2011-2015 makes you wonder whether you’re looking at the records of DEA agents or records of the drug criminals they’re supposed to be apprehending.
Many of the agents received letters of caution, the lowest possible sanction, for activities like loss/theft of evidence (drug and non-drug), tampering with evidence, theft of defendant’s property, falsification of official records, improper use of company credit cards, making threats, sexual harassment, and arrests for state or local law violations—any of which would likely get most of us fired from our jobs. The letter of caution doesn’t even affect an agent’s work record; it is merely a warning that if he or she continues that behavior, then a letter of reprimand, suspension or termination will be in order.
Most disturbing is the case of Daniel Chong, the young man the DEA left imprisoned in a holding room unattended for five days without food or water in 2012. While Chong won a $4.1 million settlement over the torture that left him dehydrated, hallucinating and ready for death, the six DEA agents investigated over the incident won the right to keep working as DEA agents. They received seven days suspension, five days suspension and four letters of reprimand, respectively, according to the Department of Justice’s letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley.
When so few wrongdoers are held accountable, there is no incentive not to be a crooked cop. When the DEA catches us doing wrong, we don’t get letters of caution, we get raids and seizures. It’s time our police forces were held to a stricter punishment for lawbreaking than slaps on the wrist.