The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, USA Today reports.

Great to know that those who enforce the law continue to feel they are above it. 

Here's what we know - as reported by USA Today:

  • The DEA had not fired agents (and probably never will) who investigators found attended “sex parties” with prostitutes. The agents paid for the prostitutes with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia.
  • In one case listed on an internal log, the review board recommended that an employee be fired for “distribution of drugs,” but a human resources official in charge of meting out discipline imposed a 14-day suspension instead.
  • The log shows officials also opted not to fire employees who falsified official records (this is also known as fraud).
  • Employees are also not fireable for “improper association with a criminal element” or misused government vehicles, sometimes after drinking.
  • Of the 50 employees the DEA's Board of Professional Conduct recommended be fired following misconduct investigations opened since 2010, only 13 were actually terminated, the records show. And the drug agency was forced to take some of them back after a federal appeals board intervened.
  • Records from the DEA’s disciplinary files show that was hardly the only instance in which the DEA opted not to fire employees despite apparently serious misconduct.
  • When they do find wrongdoing, the most common outcome is a either a letter of caution — the lightest form of discipline the agency can impose — or a brief unpaid suspension.
  • In fewer than 6 percent of those cases did DEA managers recommend firing. In some of those cases, the agency allowed employees to quit. More often, it settled on a lesser punishment.
  • DEA records show the agency had not finished some of the misconduct cases it opened in 2011, including two serious enough that the agency's Board of Professional Conduct recommended the employee be fired.

“If we conducted an investigation, and an employee actually got terminated, I was surprised,” said Carl Pike, a former DEA internal affairs investigator. “I was truly, truly surprised. Like, wow, the system actually got this guy.”

Even when employees are fired, records show the punishment doesn’t always stick. The agents can be reinstated by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, the independent body that reviews federal disciplinary matters. 

USA Today reports that in one case, the board stopped the DEA from firing an agent who left a voicemail for his girlfriend threatening “to give the couple's consensually made sex video” to her 8-year-old daughter as a birthday present. 

The board also ruled another agent could not be fired "after he accidentally fired his gun during a foot chase," threw away the shell casing evidence, and told an investigator that "the shooting never happened."

The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into whether the DEA is able to adequately detect and punish wrongdoing by its agents. 

The department has opened several other inquiries in the past, with no outcome, other than "faulting" the DEA for imposing “penalties that appear to be too lenient.”

What do you think about the DEA? Sound off below!

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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