According to Smith (2003), Federal law enforcement is defined as a structure of enforcing the law in countries that have a federal government that has control all over the country. Where a federal government exists, the nation is divided into smaller sections and every smaller section possesses its laws and also has its agencies that enforce these laws. It turns out now to be quite vital for the enforcement of the federal law to prevent the breaking of the law that is not under the jurisdiction of specific departments. Where federal governments do not exist, an agency that enforces the law is referred to as a national law enforcement agency since it has jurisdiction that covers the whole nation and may operate differently from the federal law enforcement agency in some terms (Smith, 2003).
Aspects of Federal law Enforcement Agencies
Based on the above information, the decentralized nature of American law enforcement makes it unique among nations. Law enforcement in this country is not a single structure. This is quite necessary because this government by its nature is based on decentralization. For instance, there exists a single national government but on the other side, we have several sovereign state governments which are fifty in number. Operating under the power of these state governments several particular district governments use officers whose responsibility is to enforce the law in terms of policing specific geographical borders of the concerned governments.
In the United States of America, not even one law enforcement agency has overall jurisdiction, meaning that no law enforcement agency possesses the power to enforce all the laws in all regions in America. Several people in the nation have a strong belief that the superior law enforcement agency is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They believe that this agency owns the widest police authority among the law-enforcing agencies. Although it is quite factual that the FBI has really wide geographical jurisdiction all over the nation and within its territories but the laws on which they have to carry enforcement turns out to be focused narrowly. On the other side, the case is different with the local law enforcement. For instance, a police officer is limited within a particular geographical area and will only make arrests within that area. In the country, there is an intention to limit the powers of the police to ensure that not even one law enforcement agency possesses excessive powers (Jeffrey, 2006).
The basic benefit or positive aspect of the decentralization of enforcing the law is the distribution of power. The structure is intentionally federal. This structure is also extended to the jurisdictions at a local level in every state. This distribution of power among all the governmental entities in the nation highly minimizes the threat of oppression from the government that is not under check. Another positive aspect of federal law enforcement is that, since law enforcement is done locally, these efforts turn out to be more efficient and can easily be managed. In addition to this, this system promotes answerability and openness to the public. Although some organizations of the police are very big about others, a countrywide police force in which officers can hide themselves to evade public criticism does not exist. In this case, the comparative power of individual citizens on police performance and strategies in their communities is higher than in the case where if there existed bigger but few police agencies in the nation. More so, another positive aspect is that decentralized law enforcement is that there is a chance to examine many diverse behaviors of policing and discover the most excellent practices within the occupation (Jeffrey, 2006).
However, the current law enforcement agencies are faced with some sort of shortcomings or negative aspects that need to be corrected. For instance, Spann & William (1975) reports that the FBI is supposed to detect crimes under the direction of the attorney general and more so, it is given the authority to carry out other investigations of the same sort under the regulation of the Justice Department and the Department of State in a manner that is as per the attorney general’s directions. It was found that the reports, in its undertakings the FBI has very much been prying into the American people’s activities together with the activities of the organizations and most of these organizations and people were merely exercising their rights to oppose and to complain. In most cases, the FBI has carried out these activities with no special acceptance from the attorney general, or even in some instances; the attorney general has not known about these activities. It was recommended that the attorney general set out the guidelines to control the activities of the FBI.
Concerning the issue of a special prosecutor Spann & William (1975), reports that federal courts may be given authority to appoint this special prosecutor. The authors further report that the appointing of this prosecutor by a court does not give an implication that the court which appoints has the responsibility of supervising the application of prosecutorial good judgment. It was found that coming up with a lasting special prosecutor raises deep issues that are related to the administering of justice. It was also found that a special prosecutor may be quite relevant in a special state of affairs. Reforms are vital to evade situations where this kind of prosecutor is only appointed in circumstances that are quite extreme come about. The authority responsible for the appointment of the special prosecutor should carry out this task based on particular standards and guidelines to ensure there is integrity in this process. The legislation giving authority to the appointing of this prosecutor was recommended. The federal court could carry out this duty on its power or upon the attorney general’s direction as it may be deemed necessary. It was further recommended that the court be comprised of senior federal court judges who are on their retirement. The number of these judges is supposed to be three.
Indicating the current efforts that are being carried out by the federal law enforcement agencies Anonymous (2001), reports that these agencies currently have given much value to the superiority of crime mapping and data-driven management. In all their activities, the agents are using the information that they are obtaining at the appropriate time together with geographical exhibition and examination to bring about improvement in the operations.
More specifically, some offices of the attorney in the country that are at the intersection of each investigation and prosecution carried out by the federal law enforcing agencies have discovered that advanced information machinery brings about cooperation among these agencies. There was an emphasis from the local and federal law enforcement agencies which revealed during the interviews and in Task Force meetings that extra federal leadership could have a great consequence on the safety of the public. This consequence could be the same as one that would be felt in the process of the higher federal employing of gear and ethics of data-driven management that now proves to be quite reliable at the local level.
These officials strongly approved an intensive, lasting attempt to make stronger data-driven management in these agencies and to utilize mapping, other tools, and up-to-date data to boost the calculated and coordinated employment of the federal law enforcement assets.
For instance, Anonymous (2001) notes, “in support of the move to make stronger the role of the Attorney and the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Special Agents in Charge in Combating gun violence with information about the best practices, mapping, and other machinery could boost its impact.” Even if federal prosecutions stand for just about five percent of the total prosecutions within the country, these federal prosecutions are targeted at the offenders who commit serious crimes and therefore turn out to leave greater consequences more than just the total number of arrests.
Federal prosecutors in various regions like Richmond, and Boston among other places have been able to carry out a demonstration that they are in a position to work by backing and boosting the local authorities and obtain an impact on violence with guns which can be measured by utilizing good and clear information to aid in identifying worthwhile targets and in turn employing relevant federal laws to arrest.
Furthermore, the Task Force was requested to revisit performance measures that are in the meantime underutilization by the federal law enforcement agencies. It mobilized the local officials together with all federal officials to examine the means to come up with a closer connection between performance measures of law enforcement and the preferred results. These officials made observations as follows:
- There is a possibility that through the leadership of the federal government programs along with actions and doing work in terms of partnering with localities and states, to obtain an important consequence on the safety of the public. Even if enforcing federal law stands for only a minute section of the whole law enforcement capability of the whole nation, there was an acceptance among the participants that there were several ways the federal government could offer its aid in this to the localities together with states. To obtain a reasonable impact, there is a need for the federal agencies to work hand in hand with one another and with local agencies and state agencies as well.
- The existing measures of performance of federal law enforcement agencies put much emphasis on an activity like counting cases and number of arrests made and not effectiveness. As a reason for the “Performance and Results Act” of the government, the federal agencies are dealing with the same challenges and most of them are coming up with new approaches to making a clear connection between outcomes and performance measures.
- The data required in several instances to evaluate the performance of the federal law enforcement agencies to this time is still not enough and neither come at the appropriate time. The real-time data must be made available in reliable formats to all the agencies that enforce the law. This should be done more urgently. Information about crimes committed, information about space available in jails and detention, information on population and the trend in socioeconomic activities together with the information on drug seizures are only but a section of the several data essentials that could turn out to be of great use to the federal agencies especially if they were availed in the appropriate time and more so, presented in a standard entity of analysis. For instance, “Uniform Crime Report” data at the national level are quite of great help to these agencies of federal law enforcement. On the other hand, the national-level data are not availed in a form that can be used for about two years after the annual report has been issued.
To evaluate the performance measures in the right way is quite hard in the case of federal law enforcement, but it can turn out to be very risky and very serious to get this performance measures wrong. Much emphasis has been put on the personnel of the Department of Justice not to reach a set goal for the sake of their own with considering the bigger purpose of the target. The major challenge here is to bring about a connection between the personnel’s performance and its bigger purpose. The recommendations made on this issue include: to put some changes in place in order that all the federal law enforcement agencies utilize measures that are balanced to evaluate the performance; bring encouragement of the pilot projects and research that connects performance measures to the security of the public in a better way; to build up data sources in the appropriate time that can be used and may include bringing about improvements on the ease of use and relevance of the “Uniform Crime Report” crime information at the national level; make out the ordinary data essentials that are needed by many of the these federal agencies for effectual data-driven organization; to come up with a plan of action involving collection, analysis and utilization of the required data which could also be put in the “ Management Initiatives Tracking” report of the Attorney general; and to carry out an assessment on how viable a law enforcement data store to serve the requirements of the federal law enforcement agencies is.
Another recommended step to bring about effectiveness in the federal law enforcement agencies is that there is a need to expand the training of the federal law enforcement officials to incorporate the basics of crime mapping and data-driven management. It has been realized that even if among the federal agencies we have had those who have been successful in using mapping and data-driven management especially in tracing the guns at the ‘Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ among other fields, a likeness is not given by the training courses for federal law enforcement. While training chances for local law enforcement officials are made larger, the federal law enforcement officials ought also to be given training in the basics of ‘crime mapping’ and scrutiny and data-driven management.
Jeffrey, B. (2006). Federal Agents: Growth of Federal Law in America, ISBN: 0 – 275 – 98953 – 4.
Smith, S. (2003). What Is Federal Law Enforcement?
Spann, Jr., and William, B. (1975). Removing Political Influence from Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. American Bar Association Journal; Vol. 61 Issue 10, p.1208.