Home Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement FBI and NYPD at Odds: Turf Warfare Sets a Bad Example for Other Agencies

FBI and NYPD at Odds: Turf Warfare Sets a Bad Example for Other Agencies

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I’ve been following an interesting series of articles about the continuing rift between the New York Police Department and the FBI regarding terrorism investigations. This Associated Press article discusses a 2010 incident where the NYPD went to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, requesting a search warrant, without having advised the FBI of their intention in advance. As a result of this, a top counterterrorism agent at the FBI allegedly prohibited agents from sharing information with the NYPD’s intelligence unit. He also allegedly suspended the weekly meetings of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is designed to be the coordinating body for all levels of law enforcement agencies.

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around. The NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim mosques outside its jurisdiction received a lot of national media attention and is evidence of the agency’s aggressive intelligence efforts. These efforts in counterintelligence rightly steps on the toes of the FBI—something they don’t take lightly. As the article points out, this incident of poor communication and turf warfare between the two agencies “highlights how the dysfunctional partnership jeopardizes cases and sometimes national security.”

The government has spent a lot of money, resources and time developing better ways for law enforcement agencies to communicate with one another and share information. This article in Homeland Security Newswire discusses the development of 73 fusion centers around the nation as a way for law enforcement agencies to stop operating in silos and share information. The general concept of the fusion center is that it acts as a hub for intelligence information from all levels of law enforcement (local, state and federal) and then analysts look for trends and/or threats and disseminates that information back down to the appropriate agencies. But, if agencies aren’t cooperating, that defeats the purpose and intention of fusion centers and various information-sharing task forces.

There appeared to be some progress being made to eliminate these “turf war” battles between agencies and create an environment of information sharing. Have these agencies become so absorbed in their own missions and their own intelligence-gathering efforts, that they’ve forgotten the lessons of Sept. 11? Siloed approaches to law enforcement are not as effective as collaboration and partnership-building tactics. Law enforcement agencies around the country need to see that the biggest agency in the nation is leading the effort to make collaboration work. Don’t you think?

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