Jun 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

FBI confronts sexual misconduct in its ranks with stricter policies

Photo looking up at the exterior of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building
Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FBI is doubling down on sexual misconduct within its ranks and taking a harsher stance against agents found to be perpetrators, AP reports.

Why it matters: An AP investigation last year exposed a series of sexual assault and harassment allegations against senior officials who were allowed to "quietly avoid discipline and retire or transfer even after the claims were substantiated."

The state of play: Changes include a centralized 24/7 tip line to report abuse, a working group that reviews policies and procedures on misconduct, faster response to allegations and victim support.

  • The FBI has committed to firing or at least demoting employees found guilty of misconduct so they have no path to leadership, per AP.
  • The FBI’s Victim Services Division, which had primarily focused on victims of federal crimes outside the bureau, will now also provide aid to employees who are victims of internal misconduct.

What they're saying: The bureau's actions send a strong message that employees who are tempted to engage in sexual misconduct should be scared, AP writes. If they do so, "we’re coming for them," FBI deputy director Paul Abbate told AP.

  • "That’s a strong approach, a forceful shift and we mean it. And it’s coming from the top," Abbate said. "Individuals who engage in this type of misconduct don’t belong in the FBI and they certainly should not have supervisory oversight of others. Period."

The big picture: Congress and advocacy groups have called for new whistleblower protections for rank-and-file FBI employees and an external review of the bureau's disciplinary cases, according to AP.

  • The FBI is currently facing a class-action lawsuit alleging systemic sexual harassment at its Quantico, Virginia training academy.
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