Police officers, those men and women in blue and brown (of various shades) zealously guard their badges and ID cards. In many law enforcement agencies, losing one’s badge or ID card is a very serious infraction, perhaps even a firing offense. But why?
Both are symbols of office, of the legally sanctioned power to make arrests, even to wield deadly force on behalf of the people, which is an awesome power indeed. Police officers rely on their badges and ID cards to convince citizens of their legitimacy. Anyone can resist, with force, an unlawful arrest. The trick is knowing precisely what an unlawful arrest is and when it might be taking place. Making a mistake in that assessment can get one killed, as the police also have the power to use whatever force is necessary to make a lawful arrest.
For state, and particularly, federal officers, this is a singularly important issue. They are often unknown to even local law enforcement. If people cannot trust their credentials, it is not only difficult for them to expect cooperation, it could easily put citizens, and the officers, in deadly danger. That’s why this story, from Fox News, is so disturbing, and so dangerous.
Hundreds of badges, credentials, cell phones and guns belonging to Department of Homeland Security employees have been lost or stolen in recent years — raising serious security concerns about the potential damage these missing items could do in the wrong hands.
Inventory reports, obtained by the news site Complete Colorado and shared with FoxNews.com, show that over 1,300 badges, 165 firearms and 589 cell phones were lost or stolen over the span of 31 months between 2012 and 2015.
The majority of the credentials belonged to employees of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while others belonged to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees.
The lost or stolen guns also mostly belonged to CBP employees, though others were cited as belonging to TSA and ICE workers. The agencies all fall under DHS.
The missing badges and guns suggest a shocking lack of security from federal law enforcement officers and represent a significant security risk, experts say.
You don’t say. Federal law enforcement agencies often have inflated opinions of themselves, thinking they are superior beings by virtue of their employment for the federal government. Odd, then, how the loss of such things by the lowly local police officers with whom I worked was extraordinarily rare, and usually harshly punished.
It’s scary that you’d have that number of credentials out there that someone could manipulate,” Tim Miller, a retired Secret Service special agent, told FoxNews.com.
While Miller said the phones are likely to have enough protocols in place to prevent them from being used for nefarious purposes, the badges and credentials are an entirely different matter and could allow access to sensitive areas such as cargo.
‘The thing that’s particularly concerning is that if you get real credentials, it’s very easy to manipulate them, and you’ve got someone else’s picture on what law enforcement would see as valid,’ Miller said. ‘Then you factor in terrorism, it’s a significant concern that people would run around with authentic credentials and be able to access areas they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
I’ll not go into specific scenarios, but it’s not difficult to imagine situations where terrorists, domestic and other, could use federal law enforcement credentials to do more damage than they otherwise might.
In a statement to FoxNews.com, a DHS spokesman said they strive to be ‘good stewards of government resources’ and have improved oversight and reduced the number of lost or stolen items over the past few years.
Oh great. If it’s 1300 badges—which probably includes ID cards too—and 165 guns, imagine the numbers before they became “good stewards of government resources.”
If a credential holder loses or has their credentials stolen, the holder must report the incident to their supervisor and credential issuance office immediately,’ spokesman Justin Greenberg said. ‘Once the incident has been reported, this information is entered into appropriate DHS and law enforcement databases, which disables use of the lost or stolen item.
Golly! Who knew they could automatically “disable” badges, ID cards, firearms and computing devices? They absolutely cannot disable badges, ID cards and firearms, and if you believe they actually have the means to disable computing devices, if you believe they thought that far ahead, I’s a Nigerian prince in exile, and if you’ll give me your bank accounts numbers, I have billions I’d like to deposit there for safekeeping.
Officials entrusted with protecting the American public cannot consider the loss of sensitive items normal or routine,’ Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the committee, told FoxNews.com.
‘When the Commerce Committee looked at lost and missing airport security credentials, we discovered that existing rules weren’t being effectively enforced. Mistakes happen, but if we don’t work to eliminate them and insist on accountability, then we’re left with unacceptable risk,’ Thune said.
Senator Thune is a serious and responsible fellow, but the question remains: when someone presenting federal credentials comes to our door, dare we trust them?
It’s just one more invaluable public service of the Obama Administration. Government is what we do to ourselves.