By Steve Neavling
The FBI said it’s taking serious steps to address sexual harassment in its ranks after a media report revealed the bureau mishandled misconduct allegations against high-ranking officials.
An Associated Press investigation in 2020 found that at least six senior FBI officials have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past five years and that none was disciplined.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate told the AP that the bureau is establishing a 24/7 tip line and more aggressively following up on misconduct allegations.
Abbate said he has a stern message for employees who engage in sexual misconduct: “we’re coming for them.”
“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 AP reports:
Among the changes FBI officials detailed to AP in a series of recent interviews was a round-the-clock tip line that provides a centralized mechanism to report abuse, though they would not say how many calls it has received. They also cited a working group of senior executives to review policies and procedures on harassment and victim support, and faster action to investigate allegations and fire or at least demote employees found to have engaged in misconduct to ensure they have no path to management.
To address chronic concerns that the FBI makes it difficult and intimidating for victims to come forward, the bureau is more broadly spreading the word in online and internal communications about where victimized employees can report allegations. And the FBI’s Victim Services Division, which until recently had focused on aiding victims of federal crimes outside the bureau, has been extending the same level of support to employees who are victims of internal misconduct.