Justice Department

Old Issues, New Policy for FBI

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A controversial decision by the FBI to require supervisory personnel to rotate every five years comes in conjunction with an eye-popping series of recent cases alleging years-ago misconduct.

Currently, a retired FBI supervisor is on trial in Brooklyn for allegedly helping a prized Mafia informant murder four people, as the New York Times and New York Post detail in recent stories.

And then there was the record-breaking $100 million award against the government this past summer by a federal judge in Boston to two wrongfully convicted men and the estates of two others. As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, they spent decades in prison for a 1965 gangland murder because, the judge found, FBI agents suppressed evidence of their innocence in order to protect an informant. Three of the four wrongfully convicted men originally received death sentences, although they were later commuted to life.

Now, in a questionable and controversial move, the bureau is implementing a 2004 policy that essentially requires supervisors to transfer to Washington after five years or take a $12,000 pay cut and return to the streets, explains the Philadelphia Inquirer. The policy is intended to end a shortage of supervisory personnel at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The policy is controversial because it is prompting many seasoned supervisors to retire rather than make the move to D.C. At the same time, it is eliminating acclaimed, proven leaders from local offices, the newspaper points out.

“We are losing a whole generation of supervisors—all that experience, all those local relationships,” says Michael Carbonell, 53. “It’s a terrible idea.”

With more than a decade of experience as the leader of fugitive and violent crime squads in Philadelphia, Carbonell is “a legend nationally and a model of why this is a bad idea,” adds Fred Bragg, president of the FBI Agents Association. “He’s got an exceptional relationship with the police and runs a very effective squad. Now, suddenly, you’re saying, ‘See ya.’ It doesn’t make any sense to do this simply to fill empty desks at headquarters.”

Like some 135 other supervisors nationwide, Carbonell intends to retire rather than move to Washington.

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