In an effort to rein in sexual misconduct by its agents, the Drug Enforcement Administration has instituted a one-strike policy against those who solicit prostitutes while either on or off duty.
The agency also has taken steps to beef up internal oversight of agents, and will begin publishing an internal report to shed light on employees’ bad actions and the punishments they receive, according to Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg during a congressional oversight hearing on Wednesday.
“Solicitation of prostitution on duty or off duty, whether you’re in a jurisdiction where it is legal or illegal, first time offense — removal,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
The new policy comes after embarrassment following investigations that found that DEA agents had joined the Secret Service in hiring prostitutes in Cartagena, Columbia, while doing advance security work for a 2012 visit by President Obama.
A report by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General Investigations found that DEA officials in Colombia had helped to arrange “sex parties” with prostitutes funded by local drug cartels hosted at their government-leased quarters. Further inquiry later uncovered the fact that agents who had participated in the sex parties had received tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, time off and other favorable personnel actions despite federal regulations barring them from receiving such perks.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosenberg was asked by committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley what policy changes had been made to address the misconduct. Noting that agents involved in the sex scandal received punishments ranging from two- to 10-day suspensions, Mr. Grassley asked if such a scenario would be handled differently if it were to occur today.
“I imagine the outcome would be different,” Mr. Rosenberg said, going on to detail an uptick in recent cases in which administrative punishments were doled out.
In the last 12 months, Mr. Rosenberg said the DEA has increased the number of times that it has removed agents, placed agents on administrative leave or suspended their security clearances as part of cases in which punishment was necessary. During the last 12 months, the DEA has doled out such punishments 57 times, as opposed to doing so an average of 17 times per year over the course of the last five years.
“I don’t think we have more people misbehaving,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “I think we have a more robust system to find, investigate, adjudicate and punish bad behavior.”
Mr. Rosenberg added that the DEA was also planning to launch an internal “transparency report,” through which the agency would publicize the misdeeds of fellow agents. The report would not include the names or positions of agents involved, but rather general information about the misconduct.
“If an agent loses a gun in Seattle or misuses a government credit card in Boston, we’re going to tell people what happened and what the penalties are,” he said.