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Tag: Michael Mason

Michael Mason: To Suggest Law Enforcement Community Needs Training To Learn How To Do Their Job Is a Gross Over-Simplification

Michael Mason is a retired Executive Assistant Director of the FBI. His column is in response to a newsletter in which ticklethewire.com Editor Allan Lengel commented on FBI Director James Comey’s  theory suggesting society’s intense scrutiny of police is preventing officers from being aggressive about doing their job, which in turn,  is causing a spike in crime. Lengel wrote: “I commend (Comey) for bringing up the issue. Still, he’s fallen short here. Instead of coming up with solutions, he’s simply helping reinforce the perception of cops as victims. He needs to push for a comprehensive, national program to train law enforcement officers to do their job, dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century.”

Mike Mason/fbi photo

Michael Mason/fbi photo

By Michael Mason

The opening comments you made regarding the state of police training in the United States strikes me as painting the problem with an overly broad brush.

As the father of a newly minted Washington State Patrol Trooper, I can assure you he received some of the finest training available in this country today.  The days of being handed a used uniform and a gun belt and being told you are now a police officer are long gone.

There are tens of thousands of very fine police officers serving this country in a very difficult job every day of the week.  I recently participated in a Commander for a Day program with the New York Police Department.  During my tour-of-duty, I met some of the finest young men and women this country has to offer.

They were intelligent, dedicated, focused and perhaps most importantly, universally proud of wearing the uniform of the NYPD.  Those I had the opportunity to speak with joined the department to serve the citizens of New York, not to lord over them.  I have read and heard many news reports detailing bad acts of representatives from the law enforcement community.  However, I know on any given day there are hundreds of stories that could be told about officers going the extra mile to serve the citizens in their communities.

When I was the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Buffalo Division,  a doctor was shot and killed in his residence for services he provided to women.  He was shot through a kitchen window and killed in his kitchen while his children watched television in an adjoining room.  The kitchen was a horrific crime scene, with splattered blood everywhere.  When the evidence technicians completed their work, police officers, detectives and leadership of the Amherst Police Department, stayed on scene and cleaned that kitchen until virtually no signs of the horrible crime that occurred there were visible any longer.

I could recite you similar stories of officers engaging beyond the call of duty from every place I served across the country.  We live in a time in which the respect given to those in authority has been significantly degraded over the past couple of decades.  Policing is as difficult a job as it has ever been in our history.  Despite this fact, young men and women still desire to serve in the uniform of our state, local and tribal police departments.  The vast majority do so with honor and distinction.

Perhaps these times call for additional training in de-escalation procedures and other techniques necessary to de-fuse potentially hostile and dangerous situations.  I am a strong proponent of routine and continuous training.

However, I will conclude my note in the same manner I began, to suggest that the law enforcement community needs to training to learn how to “…do their job…” is a gross over-simplification.  There are few professions that include the amount of training provided to today’s law enforcement officer.  Academies run from 6-10 months, 40 hours per week.   You and I both know those academies go far beyond teaching the best way to use a night stick.  I suspect training at today’s police academies includes subjects that weren’t even taught a decade ago.  I truly believe today’s police are better trained, more educated and just as community-oriented and dedicated to the mission of policing as any time in this country’s history.

The vast majority of police put on their uniforms hoping to do what we all hope to do; go to work, have a reasonably good day and perform their jobs to the best of their ability.  I would put virtually all the police officers I met in my career in that category.

I know you are a fair guy, but I really wanted to speak up on behalf of the law enforcement community, a community far better than recent media depictions have portrayed.

 

Column: FBI Agent Critical of Ex-Official Defending the Agency

FBI agent Theresa Foley was the first full-time female FBI agent to be stationed at Guantanamo. She has filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, saying she was made to bunk with vermin that gave her a tropical disease. Theresa Foley has undergone multiple surgeries since contracting the disease and has been disabled and is living with her parents. She claims her disease was made worse when the FBI refused to let her stand and instead made her kneel in the traditional stance during firearms qualification.The lawsuit also says she was ostracized for refusing to join in a “spring break” atmosphere in which agents were encouraged to drink, date and frolic during off hours.Her lawsuit alleges sexual discrimination and harassment, employment discrimination based on disability and gender and retaliation. 

Theresa Foley/family photo

 
By Theresa Foley
For ticklethewire.com

My name is Theresa Foley and many months ago you printed a letter my Mother wrote regarding the extension of FBI Director Mueller and her thoughts as to what occurred to me on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It was a sad letter for me to read and several weeks after that I underwent a difficult surgery, thus never wrote. In the past week Mr. Ross Parker commented on the Penn State scandal, mentioning FBI Special Agent Jane Turner and all she had been through.

Mr. Michael Mason responded to this, affronted that the FBI was likened to the Penn State situation due to the reference from Ms. Turner that “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity…It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, than taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.”

As my Mother noted, I was an FBI Agent assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was assigned out of the Washington Field Office, when Mr. Mason was ADIC (Assistant Director in Charge).

Frankly, I was disappointed in his column, but not surprised in his defense of the FBI, praising Jane Turner at the end, but disagreeing with her statement. A jury agreed with Ms. Turner, yet to this day, no individuals have ever been held accountable for what occurred with her.

Due to legal issues, I will not comment on those in leadership at the WFO who could have stepped in and obtained some justice.

Their answer, in the few meetings reportedly held regarding what occurred with me, was to tell those who spoke up for me to “back off” and to transfer me. I found the chain of command to be broken, from Guantanamo to WFO, to FBIHQ, Boston and back.

I hope they are at peace exiting those meetings with their lack of truth seeking. One does not become a leader in the FBI speaking out about bad behavior, malfeasance and criminal conduct. Once you speak out, your career is over. Quite a few can attest to this, and the trial of Jane Turner is just a small indication of what goes on once you report “bad behavior”.

I arrived on Guantanamo in the fall of 2003 full of life and whole. I left almost ten months later, never to return, ill, broken and beat down. I arrived idealistically with the idea that it was the most important assignment in the FBI due to the war on terror.

Read more »

Column: Ex-FBI Official Mike Mason Challenges Comment by FBI Profiler on Penn State Scandal

Michael Mason, a former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, retired as the executive assistant director at FBI headquarters in 2007. His column is in response to a column ex-fed prosecutor Ross Parker wrote in the form of a  letter to his son about the Penn State Scandal in which he quoted Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler, who said: “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions.”

Mike Mason/fbi photo

 
 
By Michael Mason
for ticklethewire.com

I have tried for the past two days to get beyond Ross Parker’s letter to his son and specifically the reference he made to the FBI via a piece apparently written by FBI profiler Jane Turner.

I too, have sons and have always taught them to stand tall when faced with moral imperatives.

I have shared with them many times that never in my FBI career was I ashamed to look at myself in the mirror for my conduct or that of my colleagues regarding the decisions we were called upon to make on a daily basis. I have shared with them times when agents have gone astray and been held accountable for doing so. I have shared with them the times I had to take a stand against conventional wisdom and against my own best interest and proudly did so.

I am not alone in any of the above. I did not inhabit an insular world. As you know I left the FBI as an Executive Assistant Director and there is not a single day of my entire career for which I am ashamed of or would be afraid to put on the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times.

I am proud of the many internal discussions we had in the FBI about choosing the right course of action in a myriad of situations most would find extremely challenging. Did we always choose the right course of action, perhaps not, but I can tell you and the readers of Ticklethewire that we left those meetings believing we had done so.

I never left any such meeting with my head hung low, ashamed that I, or one of my colleagues, had not spoken up when the occasion required us to do so.

I believed I wrestled with enough truly challenging decisions over the course of my career that teaching a masters level philosophy course would have been a natural role for me and many others to fill in retirement. So when I read comments about the FBI, even from FBI employees such as Jane Turner, I find myself wondering to what, specifically, they are referring.

Now that I am in the private sector, I can assure you the significant decisions made by the FBI are more exposed to the light of public opinion than virtually any such decisions made in this arena.

My point here is not to suggest the FBI was or will ever be flawless in their decision making processes or in the execution of their sworn duties. However, throughout my career I worked with some of the hardest working, most honest people I have ever met. I have seen FBI employees give more of themselves than the average American will ever be asked to give.

Every day of their respective careers they tried desperately to do the right thing. So try as I might to simply read Parker’s article and move on, I have been unable to do so. What was essentially a “drive-by” comment linking the unfortunate incident at Penn State to the general environment at the FBI demands a response. Parker’s use of Turner’s piece in his letter to his son suggest at a minimum he agrees with her statement. I categorically do not.

I have no doubt that both Jane Turner and Ross Parker are very fine individuals who served the public well. I have no doubt Parker’s son, if he follows his dad’s advice, will become a fine young man as well.

However, I believe the exact same thing about my two sons and dozens of other sons and daughters of FBI employees who have dispense similar advice to their children.

Far from an “insular world” the one I inhabited while serving in the FBI dealt with extraordinarily complex situations which often called for very difficult decisions. Never did I find my colleagues shrinking from their responsibility to try and make the right call.

Column: Ex-FBI Official Mike Mason Says Investigating Cheating Would Be Waste of Time and Money; Better to Re-Administer Test

Mike Mason/fbi photo
Mike Mason/fbi photo

Michael Mason, a former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, retired as the executive assistant director at FBI headquarters in 2007. His column is in response to the Justice Department investigation into whether potentially  hundreds of FBI agents cheated on an open book test on a computer they took without supervision. Some may have worked with others or gotten answers in advance, a violation of FBI policy.

By Michael Mason
For ticklethewire.com

I was reading your blog today and wanted to respond to the issue about the testing problem at the FBI.

I sincerely believe it would be a complete waste of time and money to further investigate the potential of additional cheating on the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) examination.

Whereas I do not condone cheating, the objective of this “test” was to ensure all agents and analysts had a thorough understanding of the rules of the road according to the DIOC.

Failure was not an option.

As such, employees who failed the test were required to re-take it until they achieved a passing grade. Rather than go through an unnecessarily long and deliberate investigation to determine who else may have cheated, why not simply re-administer the test, under controlled conditions, to the entire relevant employee population.

I was formerly responsible for running the Washington Field Office and retired as an Executive Assistant Director of the FBI, so I am completely familiar with size and scope of this recommendation.

There would be a need for multiple test dates in each field office and other logistical requirements which are by no means beyond the ability of smart people to arrange.

There will undoubtedly be howls of protest from employees who did not cheat in the first place, but that is a relatively small price to pay to resolve this issue and to give the assurance that the test has been correctly administered to everyone.

Further adding to the need to think a bit differently here is that no inquiry will identify everyone who may have cheated.

Is not a controlled administering of the test a simple, straightforward manner of getting to the aforementioned objective of ensuring that all who pass the DIOG examination have done so without any unauthorized assistance?

I hope this matter will not be used as simply another opportunity to embarrass the Bureau. Sometimes external investigations are required, regardless of the consequences.

However, this is categorically not one of those times. There is far too much important work to be done by the FBI to have the entire agency distracted by this “investigation.”