Homeland Security tightens scrutiny of internal misconduct

Jun 16, 2022, 12:32 PM | Updated: 3:27 pm
FILE - A U.S. Department of Homeland Security plaque is displayed a podium as international passeng...

FILE - A U.S. Department of Homeland Security plaque is displayed a podium as international passengers arrive at Miami international Airport where they are screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nov. 20, 2020, in Miami. Employees accused of misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security could face more stringent penalties under an overhaul announced Thursday that follows complaints about the handling of internal discipline in the third largest U.S. government agency. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employees accused of misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security could face more stringent penalties under an overhaul announced Thursday that follows complaints about the handling of internal discipline in the third largest U.S. government agency.

DHS said it will standardize serious misconduct investigations in a sprawling organization that includes Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The new procedures are the result of a review ordered by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in April after reports revealed that thousands of employees had experienced sexual harassment and misconduct and that some DHS components paid settlements without penalizing or even investigating the perpetrators.

“The deeply concerning reports this spring underscored the need for urgent action to prevent and address harassment and other misconduct in the workplace,” Mayorkas said in a statement outlining the changes.

Some of the changes to the internal disciplinary procedures, Mayorkas said, have already been put in place while others will occur in the coming months after consultations with the various unions representing an agency that has about 230,000 employees.

A key aspect of the changes will be to make the response to allegations of misconduct as well as the potential penalties more uniform across DHS, the agency said. It will also centralize investigations within the components to avoid scenarios in which serious cases are handled by an employee’s supervisor.

Employees found to have committed some kind of misconduct, which can include such behavior as theft, sexual harassment or abusing people detained by the law enforcement components, have typically faced a broad range of potential penalties.

The penalties will be more specifically spelled out and the range narrowed under the new policy to create a “more accurate system of accountability,” a senior DHS official said.

In some cases, when the potential range has been too broad, the penalty for misconduct has been “inadequate,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy changes ahead of their release.

The agency didn’t specify how the changes would affect individual components, because there is a wide spectrum in how each now handles allegations of misconduct. But the official acknowledged that the new policy would address criticism of Customs and Border Protection.

“There has been public criticism of some of the discipline at CBP and I think it stands to reason that we may do more centralization there as well as other places,” the official said.

The impetus for the review was the release of details from draft reports from the DHS Office of Inspector General.

One from December 2020 showed that more than 10,000 employees of CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service and the TSA had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work — over one-third of employees who responded to a survey.

Another showed that DHS law enforcement agencies paid nearly $1 million in settlements to 21 employees to resolve allegations of sexual harassment despite inspectors finding no record of an investigation or disciplinary action.

The draft reports were obtained by the nonpartisan Project on Governmental Oversight and published by The New York Times.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Feds: R. Kelly remains on suicide watch ‘for his own safety’

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are pushing back on R. Kelly’s claims that he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment last week after a judge sentenced him to 30 years behind bars for using his fame to sexually abuse young girls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers […]
12 hours ago
This image filed May 15, 2019 in federal court as part of a forfeiture complaint by the U.S. attorn...
Associated Press

Long-missing Alexander Hamilton letter put on public display

BOSTON (AP) — A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 and believed stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts state archives is going back on display — though not exactly in the room where it happened. The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece at the Commonwealth Museum’s annual July Fourth exhibit, Secretary of […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

31 bodies, some decomposing, found at Indiana funeral home

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Police are investigating after more than 30 bodies, some decomposing, were found inside a southern Indiana funeral home. Police in the Louisville suburb of Jeffersonville responded to Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center on Friday evening and found 31 bodies, including some some “in the advanced stages of decomposition,” Maj. Isaac […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Key players granted bail in Buffalo Billion corruption case

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has granted bail to a prominent Buffalo developer and other businessmen serving prison time for a bid-rigging scheme related to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic redevelopment program. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni signed an order Friday allowing developer Louis Ciminelli and three others to be released […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

DA: Late officer justified in accidental shooting death

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania prosecutor has ruled that a late police sergeant was justified in using deadly force that resulted in the accidental shooting death of a jail guard during a hostage situation at a county courthouse last fall. Authorities said an inmate had been taken from the Blair County jail to the […]
12 hours ago
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Freida Pinto, left, and Zawe Ashton in a scene from "M...
Associated Press

‘Minions’ set box office on fire with $108.5 million debut

Families went bananas for Minions this weekend at the movie theater. ” Minions: The Rise of Gru ” brought in an estimated $108.5 million in ticket sales from 4,391 screens in North America, Universal Pictures said Sunday. By the end of the Monday’s July Fourth holiday, it will likely have earned over $127.9 million. The […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Homeland Security tightens scrutiny of internal misconduct