Managers at Interior resisting law enforcement change, senator says

Senior managers at the Interior Department are under fire from a senator who accuses them of resisting efforts to revamp management of the department's law enforcement programs.

An Interior inspector general's report released in March recommended the department ensure that managers with law enforcement training oversee law enforcement officers at the department's five bureaus. The report criticized the department's practice of having law enforcement agents report to autonomous field managers who have little or no experience in criminal investigations.

But Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says senior managers at Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are thwarting the department's reform efforts.

"Despite your orders, and the recommendations of the IG and your law enforcement review panel, the directors of BLM and the NPS have decided or are intending to hire personnel who may not possess the requisite experience to manage a law enforcement force," Grassley wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Norton, a former attorney general of Colorado, asked the IG's office in March 2001 to investigate the management of law enforcement programs throughout the department.

Interior's agencies employ about 4,400 law enforcement officers, making the department the third-largest federal law enforcement organization, behind the Justice and Treasury departments. Many of those officers work for the Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Park Police. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation also employ law enforcement officers.

Grassley said that with Interior's current management structure, non-law enforcement supervisors make critical decisions about training for law officers, security at national monuments, and patrolling the country's borders. Some managers lack the proper security clearances to help them make informed decisions, Grassley said.

The agency has not yet hired anyone for either of the positions mentioned in Grassley's letter, according to department spokesman John Wright. The job at BLM is advertised on the agency's Web site as an ES-0340-00 level position in the Senior Executive Service, and a prerequisite for the job is "prior substantial professional law enforcement experience," according to the announcement. Interior has not posted an official job announcement for the managerial position at NPS, Wright said.

According to Wright, "each of the bureaus in the department, including BLM and NPS, are in the process of developing a new law enforcement structure to meet the secretary's directives," as a result of the IG report.

In July, Norton appointed Larry Parkinson as Interior's first deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement and security. Parkinson served as general counsel and as an assistant director at the FBI before joining Interior.

Norton has been "extremely cooperative" in trying to reform law enforcement management at Interior, according to a staffer in Grassley's office. But she has been "met with a wall of resistance" from managers within the department, the aide said.

The staffer criticized Interior for failing to classify the job at BLM within the General Schedule's 1811 job series. That series includes criminal investigators at several federal agencies. By not listing the job in the 1811 series, the agency is failing to clearly indicate that it is a law enforcement job, the staffer argued.

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