Federal Law Enforcement:
Selected Issues in Human Capital Management
GAO-03-1034T: Published: Jul 23, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 2003.
Many federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area have their own police forces to ensure the security and safety of the persons and property within and surrounding federal buildings. In the executive branch, for example, the Secret Service has over 1,000 uniformed officers protecting the White House, the Treasury Building, and other facilities used by the Executive Office of the President. The Interior Department's Park Police consists of more than 400 officers protecting parks and monuments in the area. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency has recently increased its force to over 400 officers. Even the Health and Human Services Department maintains a small police force on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, there are federal uniformed police forces in both the Legislative and Judicial Branches of the federal government. We have continued to examine the transformation of 22 agencies with an estimated 160,000 civilian employees into the Department of Homeland Security.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the government's subsequent efforts to increase airline security, many of these local police forces began experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining officers. Police force officials raised concerns that the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its Federal Air Marshal Program were luring many prospective and experienced officers by offering better starting pay and law enforcement retirement benefits. Former Congresswoman Morella asked us to look into these concerns. Most forces reported experiencing recruitment difficulties. Officials at 8 of the 13 forces told us they experienced moderate to very great recruiting difficulties. Despite this, none of the 13 forces used available human capital flexibilities, such as recruitment bonuses or student loan repayments in fiscal year 2002, to try to improve their recuiting efforts. In fiscal year 2002, many of the local forces experienced sizable increases in turnover, mostly due to voluntary separations. About half of the officers who left voluntarily went to the TSA. Some of the forces provided retention allowances and incentive awards to try to retain more of their officers. Entry-level pay at the 13 agencies during fiscal year 2002 ranged from $28,801 to $39,427, a gap that narrowed for some of the forces in fiscal year 2003 because officers at 12 of the 13 agencies received increased entry-level pay. However, information we have gathered since we issued our report indicates that turnover in most of the police forces has dropped significantly during fiscal year 2003. The increase in turnover that occurred at 12 of the 13 police forces during fiscal year 2002 appears to be associated with the concurrent staffing of the TSA Federal Air Marshal Program. TSA's hiring of air marshals during fiscal year 2003 has been pared back.