The Department of Justice announced awards from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) totaling $2.6 million to four jurisdictions to disrupt and mitigate threats of violence. The funds support state and local prosecutors and investigators who seek expertise from mental health and threat assessment experts to identify these individuals and prevent violent acts.
“Disruption and early engagement programs are part of the Department of Justice’s national strategy to disrupt potential mass shootings and other rapidly mobilizing threats of targeted violence,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “This program provides funding that enables state and local authorities to work with federal partners and to develop new tools and tactics to continue protecting the safety and well-being of our communities.”
Prioritized nationally by the Attorney General in October 2019, disruption and early engagement programs leverage relationships with law enforcement, community groups, and health professionals to help mitigate violent acts by developing individualized threat assessments and mitigation plans. These grants provide funds for state, local, and tribal governments to establish disruption and early engagement networks.
The funds are part of the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program administered by OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and are being awarded to the San Antonio, Texas, Police Department; Macon-Bibb County, Georgia; the Bear River, Utah, Health Department; and the County of Penobscot, Maine. The awards are part of more than $29 million in grants recently announced by the Department of Justice to address mental illness in the criminal justice system. This initiative supports teams that address rapidly evolving threats of targeted violence and encourages the building of multidisciplinary threat assessment and threat management teams.
“There’s no question that mental health issues are a growing threat to public safety, and they are straining law enforcement and correctional resources,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “Collaboration among justice system professionals and those trained in mental health is essential to addressing these issues.”
In coordination with the Council of State Governments, BJA recently launched the Law Enforcement-Mental Health Collaboration Support Center, which offers tailored assistance to criminal justice agencies and their community partners looking to improve responses for people with mental health or substance use issues.
OJP, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training and technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov/.
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- Border Security: CBP’s Response to COVID-19By Sam NewsJune 15, 2021What GAO Found According to data from the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), through February 2021, over 7,000 Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol employees reported being infected with COVID-19, and 24 died due to COVID-19-related illnesses. In addition, over 20,000 OFO and Border Patrol employees were unable to work at some point due to COVID-19-related illnesses or quarantining in the same time period. OFO officials noted that employee absences due to COVID-19 did not generally have a significant impact on port operations, given relatively low travel volumes. In contrast, officials interviewed by GAO at three of four Border Patrol locations said that COVID-19 absences had impacted operations to some extent. COVID-19 Cases within Customs and Border Protection, through February 2021 CBP regularly updated guidance, used workplace flexibilities, and implemented safety precautions against COVID-19. Between January and December 2020, CBP updated guidance on COVID-19 precautions and how managers should address possible exposures. CBP also used a variety of workplace flexibilities, including telework and weather and safety leave to minimize the number of employees in the workplace, when appropriate. Meanwhile, CBP field locations moved some processing functions outdoors, encouraged social distancing, and provided protective equipment to employees and the public. In addition, some field locations took steps to modify infrastructure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as installing acrylic barriers or improving airflow in facilities. Challenges implementing operational changes included insufficient equipment for telework at three field locations, and shortages of respirators at a quarter of the ports of entry GAO contacted. CBP adjusted operations in response to COVID-19 and executive actions. As travel and trade volumes declined, some ports of entry reallocated personnel to other operations, such as cargo processing. In contrast, starting in May 2020 Border Patrol encounters with noncitizens steadily increased. As a result, Border Patrol requested additional resources. It also shifted its deployment strategy to operate as closely to the border as practical to intercept individuals who could be infected with COVID-19. Accordingly, some Border Patrol sectors modified interior operations, such as limiting resources at immigration checkpoints. CBP also assisted in implementing a Centers for Disease Control order that provided the ability to quickly expel apprehended individuals. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly all aspects of society, including travel to and from the U.S. In response to COVID-19, the administration issued executive actions with the intention of decreasing the number of individuals entering the U.S. and reducing transmission of the virus. Within CBP, OFO is responsible for implementing these actions at ports of entry through which travelers enter the U.S., and Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling the areas between ports of entry to prevent individuals and goods from entering the U.S. illegally. Based on their role in facilitating legitimate travel and trade and securing the borders, CBP employees risk exposure to COVID-19 in the line of duty. GAO was asked to review how CBP managed its field operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes: (1) available data on the number of CBP employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work; (2) actions CBP has taken related to protecting its workforce and the public from COVID-19; and (3) the extent to which CBP adjusted operations in response to the pandemic and related travel restrictions. GAO reviewed key guidance documents and analyzed data on travel and trade at ports of entry, Border Patrol enforcement, and COVID-19 exposures among CBP employees. GAO also interviewed officials at CBP headquarters, employee unions' representatives, and 12 CBP field locations, selected for factors such as geographic diversity, traffic levels, and COVID-19 infection rates. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Bank Supervision: FDIC Could Better Address Regulatory Capture RisksBy Sam NewsSeptember 4, 2020The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has designed policies to address the risk of regulatory capture by reducing the potential benefit to industry of capturing the examination process, reducing avenues of inducement, and promoting a culture of independence and public service (see figure). Framework for Reducing Risk and Minimizing Consequences of Regulatory Capture FDIC has several policies for documenting bank examination decisions that help promote transparent decision-making and assign responsibility for decisions. Such policies are likely to help reduce benefits to industry of capturing the examination process. However, GAO found that some examinations were not implemented consistent with FDIC policies and that gaps in FDIC policies limited their effectiveness. For example, GAO found that managers sometimes did not clearly document how they concluded that banks had addressed recommendations. By improving adherence to agency policies, FDIC management could better address threats to capture in the examination process. GAO found that FDIC has policies to address potential conflicts of interest that could help block or reduce avenues of inducement. For example, FDIC has post-employment conflict-of-interest policies designed to prevent former employees from exerting undue influence on FDIC and to reduce industry's ability to induce current FDIC employees with prospective employment arrangements. One such policy requires the agency to review the workpapers of examiners-in-charge who accept employment with banks they examined in the prior 18 months. However, FDIC has not fully implemented a process for identifying when to review the workpapers of departing examiners to assess whether independence has been compromised. In particular, FDIC does not have a process for collecting information about departing employees' future employment. By revising its examiner-departure processes, the agency could better identify when to initiate workpaper reviews. FDIC has identified regulatory capture as a risk as part of its enterprise risk management process. The agency has documented 11 mitigation strategies that could help address that risk. Identified mitigation strategies include rotating examiners-in-charge, national examination training, and ethics requirements. FDIC supervises about 3,300 financial institutions to evaluate their safety and soundness. Some analyses by academic researchers have identified regulatory capture in supervision as one potential factor contributing to the 2007–2009 financial crisis. Regulatory capture is defined as a regulator acting in the interest of the regulated industry rather than in the public interest. GAO was asked to review regulatory capture in financial regulation. This report examines FDIC's (1) processes for encouraging transparency and accountability in the bank examination process, (2) processes to minimize potential conflicts of interest among examination staff, and (3) agency-wide efforts to address the risks of regulatory capture and compromised independence. GAO reviewed FDIC's policies and enterprise risk management framework, analyzed bank examination workpapers, and interviewed supervisory staff. GAO is making four recommendations to FDIC related to managing the risk of regulatory capture, including improving documentation of banks' progress at addressing FDIC recommendations and revising examiner-departure processes. FDIC neither agreed nor disagreed with these recommendations, but described actions it would take in response to them. FDIC's actions, if fully implemented, would address two of the four recommendations. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Afghanistan: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Management of U.S. Civilian PresenceBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021What GAO FoundU.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority and the Department of Defense (DOD) have reported expanding their civilian presence in Afghanistan and took steps to improve their ability to track that presence. Since January 2009, U.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority more than tripled their civilian presence from 320 to 1,142. However, although State could report total Chief of Mission numbers by agency, in mid-2011 GAO identified discrepancies in States data system used to capture more-detailed staffing information such as location and position type. State began taking steps in the fall of 2011 to improve the reliability of its data system. Also, DOD reported expanding its overall civilian presence from 394 civilians in January 2009 to 2,929 in December 2011 to help assist U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. The extent to which DODs data is reliable is unknown due to omissions and double counting, among other things. In a 2009 report, GAO noted similar data issues and recommended DOD improve data concerning deployed civilians. DOD concurred with the recommendation and expects the issues will be addressed by a new tracking system to be completed in fiscal year 2012.DOD has taken preliminary steps to implement its Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) policy, including establishing a program office; however, nearly 3 years after DODs directive established the CEW, the program has not been fully developed and implemented. Specifically, DOD components have not identified and designated the number and types of positions that should constitute the CEW because guidance for making such determinations has not been provided by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Officials stated that once key assumptions regarding the size and composition of the CEW have been finalized, implementing guidance will be issued. Until guidance that instructs the components on how to identify and designate the number and types of positions that will constitute the CEW is developed, DOD may not be able to (1) make the CEW a significant portion of the civilian workforce as called for in DODs fiscal year 2009 Civilian Human Capital Strategic Plan, (2) meet readiness goals for the CEW as required in DODs Strategic Management Plan for fiscal years 2012-2013, and (3) position itself to respond to future missions.U.S. agencies under Chief of Mission authority and DOD provided Afghanistan-specific, predeployment training to their civilians, but DOD faced challenges. State offered predeployment training courses to address its requirements for Chief of Mission personnel and designated a centralized point of contact to help ensure that no personnel were deployed without taking required training, including the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat course. While predeployment training requirements were established for Afghanistan by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Combatant Commander, DOD relied on its various components to provide the training to its civilians. In some cases, DOD components offered duplicate training courses and did not address all theater requirements in their training because DOD did not have a process for identifying and synchronizing requirements and coordinating efforts to implement them, as called for in the Strategic Plan for the Next Generation of Training for the Department of Defense. Absent this process, DOD could not ensure that its civilians were fully prepared for deployment to Afghanistan and that training resources were used efficiently.Why GAO Did This StudyIn March 2009, the President called for an expanded U.S. civilian presence under Chief of Mission authority to build the capacity of the Afghan government to provide security, essential services, and economic development. In addition, the Department of Defense (DOD) deploys civilians under combatant commander authority to Afghanistan to support both combat and capacity-building missions. DOD established the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) in 2009 to create a cadre of civilians trained, cleared, and equipped to respond urgently to expeditionary requirements. As the military draws down, U.S. civilians will remain crucial to achieving the goal of transferring lead security responsibility to the Afghan government in 2014.For this report, GAO (1) examined the expansion of the U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan, (2) evaluated DODs implementation of its CEW policy, and (3) determined the extent to which U.S. agencies had provided required Afghanistan-specific training to their personnel before deployment. GAO analyzed staffing data and training requirements, and interviewed cognizant officials from the Department of State (State), other U.S. agencies with personnel under Chief of Mission authority in Afghanistan, and DOD.[Read More…]
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- VA Medical Center Security: Progress Made, but Improvements to Oversight of Risk Management and Incident Analysis Still NeededBy Sam NewsJuly 13, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently identified improvements for its physical security risk management policy and oversight process for its medical centers but has yet to implement them. In January 2018, GAO reported that VA's risk management policy did not fully reflect federal standards for facility security, such as a requirement to consider all of the undesirable events described in the standards (e.g. active shooter incidents). GAO also reported that while VA conducted some limited oversight of medical centers' risk management activities, it lacked a system-wide oversight strategy. GAO recommended that VA revise its policy to reflect federal standards and develop a system-wide oversight strategy to help to ensure that its approach to risk management will yield the appropriate security posture relative to the different risks at each of its medical centers. In response, as of June 2021, VA has begun to take actions to revise its policy to reflect the standards and fully deploy a risk assessment tool to help oversee risk management processes across medical centers. VA officials said they plan to implement the revised policy and assessment tool in fiscal year 2022. VA has improved its data collection to support the management and oversight of police officers' use of force but could better track and analyze investigations. VA policy contains a use of force continuum scale to define and clarify the categories of force that officers can use to gain control of a situation. In September 2020, GAO reported that VA's records of use of force incidents were not complete or accurate. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, VA did not track incidents by individual medical centers. GAO also reported that VA did not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers or have a database designed for such purposes, limiting VA's ability to provide effective oversight. GAO recommended that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its data on use of force, analyze that data by facility and geographic region, and implement plans to obtain a database to collect and analyze use of force investigations. As of June 2021, VA took steps to improve the accuracy and completeness of its use of force incident data, and officials stated VA is working to obtain a suitable database to track use of force investigation trends. GAO will continue to review VA's steps to address recommendations from both reports. Why GAO Did This Study The Veterans Health Administration provides critical health services to approximately 9-million enrolled veterans at its nearly 170 medical centers. Ensuring safety and security at these medical centers can be complicated because VA has to balance the treatment and care of veterans—a vulnerable population with high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse—while also maintaining order and enforcing the law. Officers may need to use physical force to help bring a violent or hostile situation under control. This statement focuses on how VA manages and oversees (1) the physical security of medical centers and (2) use of force incidents by police officers. The statement is primarily based on GAO-18-201, issued in January 2018, and GAO-20-599, issued in September 2020. To update this information, GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed VA officials on actions taken to address these reports' recommendations.[Read More…]
- Transit-Oriented Development: DOT Should Better Document Its Rationale for Financing Decisions and Evaluate Its Pilot ProgramBy Sam NewsDecember 3, 2021What GAO Found Transit agencies and local governments have looked to increase transit ridership and revenues by encouraging growth along transit corridors with transit-oriented development. Such projects generally comprise mixed-use residential and commercial real estate near transit. In 2015, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act expanded eligibility under two federal financing programs administered by the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Build America Bureau (Bureau) to transit-oriented development projects. While the Bureau has provided information on these programs to many potential project sponsors, it has not approved financing for any transit-oriented development projects since 2016 or clearly documented all project eligibility decisions. Specifically, the Bureau received 29 inquiries from project sponsors—mostly joint ventures by developers and local agencies—about financing such projects. All but seven inquiries were in early stages of development and not ready for the Bureau to assess their eligibility for financial assistance. Of the seven more developed projects, the Bureau determined that six were ineligible for financing and that one project is preliminarily eligible. However, we found the Bureau did not clearly document its rationale for five of the six declared ineligible, in part because it did not follow its procedures for conducting these reviews and implemented new procedures without documenting the changes. Without a clearly documented rationale for eligibility decisions and procedures for making decisions, sponsors lack reasonable assurance that the Bureau is reviewing projects consistently. Transit-Oriented Development Project Inquiries to the Build America Bureau since 2016 The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awards grants through a pilot program to help transit agencies and communities plan for transit-oriented development. While FTA has invested almost $80 million through this pilot program since FTA made its first awards in 2015, it has not documented a plan to evaluate the pilot or identify lessons learned in line with leading practices. Without such an evaluation, FTA will not be able to understand whether the pilot program is fulfilling its goals to help communities develop strategies to facilitate transit-oriented development. Further, FTA will lack information to inform congressional decisions about the pilot program's future. Why GAO Did This Study U.S. transit agencies face fiscal challenges and rely heavily on local, state, and federal funding to operate rail and bus systems. Transit-oriented development projects could help transit agencies increase ridership and revenues, and Congress has sought ways to support these projects. A 2012 statute established a pilot program for FTA to provide grants to communities to plan for transit-oriented development, and a 2015 statute expanded eligibility under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program and the Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement and Financing program to include transit-oriented development projects. GAO was asked to review DOT's transit-oriented development efforts. This report, among other things, examines: (1) the status of the Bureau's reviews of transit-oriented development projects since 2016 and the extent to which it documented decisions, and (2) how FTA has evaluated the pilot program for transit-oriented development planning. GAO reviewed Bureau documents, surveyed applicants for the Bureau's financing, and interviewed transit agencies in the pilot program selected by ridership, location, and other factors.[Read More…]
- Ohio Man Charged with Hate Crime Related to Plot to Conduct Mass Shooting of Women, Illegal Possession of Machine GunBy Sam NewsJuly 21, 2021A federal grand jury has charged a self-identified “incel” with attempting to conduct a mass shooting of women and with illegally possessing a machine gun.[Read More…]
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- DHS and DOJ Announce Dedicated Docket Process for More Efficient Immigration HearingsBy Sam NewsMay 28, 2021Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a new Dedicated Docket process to more expeditiously and fairly make decisions in immigration cases of families who arrive between ports of entry at the Southwest Border. This new process should significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for migrants to have their cases adjudicated while still providing fair hearings for families seeking asylum at the border.[Read More…]
- Consumer Privacy: Better Disclosures Needed on Information Sharing by Banks and Credit UnionsBy Sam NewsNovember 23, 2020Banks and credit unions collect, use, and share consumers' personal information—such as income level and credit card transactions—to conduct everyday business and market products and services. They share this information with a variety of third parties, such as service providers and retailers. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) requires financial institutions to provide consumers with a privacy notice describing their information-sharing practices. Many banks and credit unions elect to use a model form—issued by regulators in 2009—which provides a safe harbor for complying with the law (see figure). GAO found the form gives a limited view of what information is collected and with whom it is shared. Consumer and privacy groups GAO interviewed cited similar limitations. The model form was issued over 10 years ago. The proliferation of data-sharing since then suggests a reassessment of the form is warranted. Federal guidance states that notices about information collection and usage are central to providing privacy protections and transparency. Since Congress transferred authority to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for implementing GLBA privacy provisions, the agency has not reassessed if the form meets consumer expectations for disclosures of information-sharing. CFPB officials said they had not considered a reevaluation because they had not heard concerns from industry or consumer groups about privacy notices. Improvements to the model form could help ensure that consumers are better informed about all the ways banks and credit unions collect and share personal information. Excerpts of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Model Privacy Form Showing Reasons Institutions Share Personal Information Federal regulators examine institutions for compliance with GLBA privacy requirements, but did not do so routinely in 2014–2018 because they found most institutions did not have an elevated privacy risk. Before examinations, regulators assess noncompliance risks in areas such as relationships with third parties and sharing practices to help determine if compliance with privacy requirements needs to be examined. The violations of privacy provisions that the examinations identified were mostly minor, such as technical errors, and regulators reported relatively few consumer complaints. Banks and credit unions maintain a large amount of personal information about consumers. Federal law requires that they have processes to protect this information, including data shared with certain third parties. GAO was asked to review how banks and credit unions collect, use, and share such information and federal oversight of these activities. This report examines, among other things, (1) what personal information banks and credit unions collect, and how they use and share the information; (2) the extent to which they make consumers aware of the personal information they collect and share; and (3) how regulatory agencies oversee such collection, use, and sharing. GAO reviewed privacy notices from a nongeneralizable sample of 60 banks and credit unions with a mix of institutions with asset sizes above and below $10 billion. GAO also reviewed federal privacy laws and regulations, regulators' examinations in 2014–2018 (the last 5 years available), procedures for assessing compliance with federal privacy requirements, and data on violations. GAO interviewed officials from banks, industry and consumer groups, academia, and federal regulators. GAO recommends that CFPB update the model privacy form and consider including more information about third-party sharing. CFPB did not agree or disagree with the recommendation but said they would consider it, noting that it would require a joint rulemaking with other agencies. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or CackleyA@gao.gov or Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- Private Security Contractors: DOD Needs to Better Identify and Monitor Personnel and ContractsBy Sam NewsJuly 29, 2021What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has been unable to comprehensively identify private security contractor (PSC) contracts and personnel supporting contingency, humanitarian, peace-keeping, or other similar operations, limiting DOD's ability to readily and accurately identify the use of PSCs. DOD uses PSCs, which include companies and their personnel, hired to provide security services for the U.S. government. However, neither DOD nor GAO was able to use DOD's three PSC data sources to readily determine the universe of PSCs, the type of operation or exercise they support, or their functions, activities, and armed or unarmed status. For example, queries of DOD databases using the term “security guard” to identify PSC personnel excluded eight other job titles that may also perform private security functions. DOD has not comprehensively determined and communicated the contracted activities that fall within its definition of private security functions. Further, DOD does not have a means of readily identifying the contracts and personnel performing those activities in data sources. Without better identifying and tracking its PSC contracts and personnel, DOD will not be able to accurately determine its use of PSCs. Since 2009, DOD has established an oversight framework for its use of PSC contracts, but has not fully monitored the implementation of this framework. DOD's framework distributes oversight functions across the department as well as to organizations outside the department (see fig.). Roles and Functions of Entities to Oversee DOD's Use of Private Security Contractor (PSC) Contracts and Personnel However, DOD has not fully monitored whether and how it and the other entities have carried out their PSC oversight roles and functions. For example, GAO reviewed data for deployed contractor personnel with the job title of “security guard” and found that about 12 percent of those individuals were employed by companies not on a DOD list of certified PSC companies. Independent, third-party certification is a key oversight mechanism DOD relies on to ensure it contracts with companies that use approved personnel hiring, screening, training, and reporting practices. DOD lacks a single, senior-level position assigned to fully monitor whether DOD and various entities are carrying out their respective PSC oversight roles and functions. Without assigning this position, DOD increases the risk of incidents that its framework aims to prevent. Why GAO Did This Study During Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001–2014 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003–2011, DOD significantly increased its use of PSCs. In 2008, the Swiss Government and the Red Cross issued the Montreux Document, which generally reaffirmed the obligation nations have to ensure that their PSCs respect international humanitarian law. PSCs supporting DOD have faced international attention resulting from incidents allegedly involving their personnel. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's use of PSCs. GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) identified PSC contracts and personnel used to support contingency operations and (2) established a framework to oversee the department's use of PSC contracts. GAO analyzed DOD contract and personnel data for PSCs from 2009 through 2019, reviewed DOD guidance on PSC use, and conducted interviews with DOD officials and representatives from standards organizations.[Read More…]
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