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Future of NOAA 1811's Looks Bleak

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  • Future of NOAA 1811's Looks Bleak

    Well for those of you who have been out of the know last year several congressmen requested that NOAA OIG look at the NOAA/NMFS Office of Law Enforcement because these congressmen (mainly in the Northeast) had been receiving complaints from fishermen that NOAA OLE was too tough in their enforcement. Well earlier this winter the OIG released their report and it basically slammed NOAA OLE on several issues. One of those issues was the amount of Criminal Investigators (1811’s) that the agency has, most of NOAA’s enforcement issues are civil violations, not criminal. The report went onto say there should be a study done to see how many 1811’s and how many enforcement officers (1801) the agency should have. There are only about 20 enforcement officers in OLE, none of which are in the northwest or northeast.

    A couple weeks ago several congressmen had a town hall with the Director of NOAA, Director of NOAA OLE, and the OIG. Once again the OLE Director was asked why there were so many 1811’s for civil violations in which he basically said he hires the best investigators available. Many of these congressmen have called for the OLE Director to resign however that is yet to happen.

    The Director of NOAA has ordered an immediate hiring freeze for 1811’s for the OLE. She has also ordered a study done to see what the proportion of 1811’s and 1801’s should be in the OLE. Those of you who know about NOAA OLE know that the number of 1801’s is too low and I can only guess that this study will find the same thing. The issue is when the implementation of that study is put in place, scheduled for this October. Currently NOAA 1811’s are 6c covered, however NOAA 1801’s are not. I know there are several current 1811’s who started as 1801’s however I cant see many current 1811’s giving up their 6c coverage to take 1801 positions. This is going to be an interesting couple of months for NOAA OLE.

    Here is the response from the NOAA Director to the OIG report:
    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories...forcement.html

  • #2
    i know several nmfs sa that are now looking. when 98% of your case load is civil, what do you expect. It went on to mention "misdemeanor" investgations vs. felony. I think the belief is if you are mainly investigating "misdemeanor violations" a uniformed officer can handle that, SA should be doing complex felony level investigations, much like the other federal NR agencies operate that have uniformed LE as well.

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    • #3
      i know several nmfs sa that are now looking. when 98% of your case load is civil, what do you expect. It went on to mention "misdemeanor" investgations vs. felony. I think the belief is if you are mainly investigating "misdemeanor violations" a uniformed officer can handle that, SA should be doing complex felony level investigations, much like the other federal NR agencies operate that have uniformed LE as well.

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      • #4
        Those of you who know about NOAA OLE know that the number of 1801’s is too low and I can only guess that this study will find the same thing.
        The number of Enforcement Officers is not "too low." They actually have the right amount for the non-investigative, patrol-type work that the agency does. The may even have too many, in that respect: NOAA decided long ago, after they realized the EO program was more involved than they wanted to get into, that it would be more cost effective for them to provide funding to state agencies to supplement their own patrol activities. That's why they fund state officer attendance at FLETC's boat school and buy vessels and equipment for state agencies. But they not only didn't have the assets to do it themselves, they also knew they would never be able to GET those assets, especially when you're talking about the deep-water capabilities that would be required for 80% of commercial fishery enforcement. They would essentially have been required to "build" their own navy, so they wisely let the Coast Guard handle the deep-water patrol functions and fishery enforcement.

        The EO's who are still on board are ones who do a lot of community outreach and who still do some patrol work - but not a whole lot.

        I doubt you're going to see 1811's forcibly converted to 1801's. You may see a permanent halt in 1811 hiring until enough leave or retire out of attrition to make the numbers agreeable to everyone, but I can't recall the last time agents anywhere were converted to a completely different series - with different duties, grade levels and retirement provisions - against their will. You'll probably see RIFs before that will happen.

        The problem is not too many 1811's. It's NOAA's Office of General Counsel, which tries to justify their existence by making everything a civil violation before they allow the agents to even TRY to go to an AUSA. Many of these violations could be criminal if they'd let the agents present the cases. But they don't.

        As far as cases being misdemeanors, what the people doing this review may not realize is that 90% of wildlife violations ARE misdemeanors, mainly because the cases are never seen as important enough to merit felonies. Agents can't change that. Nor can the agency.

        But hey, lets change an entire agency's enforcement program based on the complaints of the violators - especially when those violators happen to be commercial fishermen: people who are notorious for doing whatever they want, anyway .
        "Sir, does this mean that Ann Margaret's not coming?"

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        • #5
          I wonder how this would / will affect those deputized under NMFS / NOAA and JEA. With state and local agencies participating it may influence cuts from the agency above.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by GreenLine View Post
            The problem is not too many 1811's. It's NOAA's Office of General Counsel, which tries to justify their existence by making everything a civil violation before they allow the agents to even TRY to go to an AUSA. Many of these violations could be criminal if they'd let the agents present the cases. But they don't.
            I agree with you. One of the issues with the OIG report was that the fines/penalties handed out by NOAA were "too tough", however just like any type of law enforcement the fine/penalty is not decided by the officer/agent but rather the prosecutors, in this case the NOAA General Counsel. But when the congressmen sat down with the NOAA directors and OIG, there was nobody there from the General Counsel. However watching the town hall it made it sound like it was NOAA OLE who decided the penalties which is untrue, its the general counsel. Talking to NOAA SA's the biggest gripe I get is the general counsel and how they basically make their policies, the general counsel in the NW is different from the SE and different from the NE. I think NOAA SA's would be happy if just about every offense would be prosecuted by a AUSA, just like in the other NR agencies

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