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Friday, October 7, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security Will Implement Changes to Its Internal Disciplinary Procedure

After it was reported in The New York Times that the agency’s inspector general had removed damaging findings from investigative reports about employees’ domestic violence and sexual misconduct, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday that it would overhaul the process by which its employees are disciplined.

“The deeply concerning reports this spring underscored the need for urgent action,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement that quoted the Times article. He added that the changes would include “centralising the decision-making process for disciplinary actions” so that “allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors.” The article also stated that the changes would include “centralising the decision-making process for disciplinary actions.”

After the article was published in April by The Times, Mr. Mayorkas made the decision to conduct an investigation into the department’s disciplinary procedure. The investigation was based on internal documents that were obtained initially by the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog group in Washington.

According to a draught report, an internal investigation conducted by the Department of Homeland Security found that more than 10,000 workers employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct while on the job. This number represents more than one-third of those who were surveyed.

The draught also outlined a practise in which the agencies utilised cash payments to settle sexual harassment accusations, with compensation reaching as high as $255,000. This was done without investigating or penalising the perpetrators of the harassment.

However, senior aides to the department’s inspector general, Joseph V. Cuffari, said in written remarks that the findings involving sexual misbehaviour should be suppressed because they were “inflammatory” or because they were “questioning the disciplinary resolution in these instances.”

Mr. Cuffari reportedly gave instructions to his staff to eliminate sections of a different draught report on incidents of domestic violence perpetrated by officers working for law enforcement agencies inside the department because those sections “second-guessed DHS disciplinary actions without complete facts.”

A chasm that has been widening between the Department of Homeland Security and its inspector general has been highlighted by the recently announced improvements. In contrast to Mr. Mayorkas, who has taken actions to address the charges contained in the reports, Mr. Cuffari and other top officials in the inspector general’s office have either minimised the severity of the findings or vehemently defended the removal of the findings.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security have said that they were previously ignorant of the reports’ suppressed conclusions; inspectors general are independent, internal watchdogs for federal agencies. Mr. Cuffari described an agency that had been paralysed by dysfunction in a letter that he sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee a month ago. In the letter, he blamed senior officials in his office who oversaw the investigations by name for intentionally withholding information from him. He also criticised the “intransigence” of the inspectors who drafted the reports.

In the letter, Mr. Cuffari said that he may never publish the report on sexual misbehaviour, which has not been made public since a nearly finished copy was sent around in December 2020. He stated that this is because the conclusions in the study are now too old to be relevant.

Mr. Cuffari instead said that his office will begin a fresh investigation into sexual misbehaviour, which would involve a new poll of D.H.S. staff. In addition to this, he has shown a willingness to discuss the two investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. There has been no public response from the congressional committees who are looking into Mr. Cuffari on this offer.

Gordon S. Heddell, who served as inspector general for the Department of Defense under President Barack Obama and the Department of Labor under President George W. Bush, criticised Mr. Cuffari for publicly blaming his subordinates and added that an inspector general should take responsibility and address problems without undermining his subordinates. Mr. Cuffari was criticised by Mr. Heddell for publicly blaming his subordinates.

Chris Matthews
I am a Political News Journalist of The National Era
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