FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, taking the oath of office as the nation’s top criminal investigator, said Wednesday that the country can make little progress in turning back the “plague” of crime until law enforcers stop fighting among themselves over turf.
“The turf wars must stop because they aid only the criminals,” said Freeh, 43, a former federal judge, prosecutor and FBI agent.
Freeh recalled with regret interdepartmental battles that he witnessed working “in the trenches” as an FBI agent and prosecutor with officers from the New York city and state police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and various federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service.
“On almost every occasion, those battles began and ended several bureaucratic levels above the various street agents who almost always worked together competitively but effectively,” he told a capacity audience in the FBI courtyard on a sunny, muggy Washington morning.
Freeh’s call to end interagency fights echoed statements by his boss, Atty. Gen. Janet Reno. His remarks came one week before a task force on government efficiency, headed by Vice President Al Gore, is expected to announce its recommendation on a proposal to merge the DEA into the FBI, a move intended to end disputes and duplication in the drug war.
Under former Directors William H. Webster and William S. Sessions, the FBI improved its relations with other law enforcement agencies, which often have complained that the FBI has demanded information from them but has given little in return and has hogged the limelight in headline cases.
Even so, officials at other agencies still often gnash their teeth over what they regard as FBI arrogance and blatant attempts to claim credit for law enforcement successes.
Freeh said stepped-up cooperation “would again multiply resources against crime . . . . We should try to follow the advice which we often give our children: ‘Play with your friends, be fair and honest with them and share your toys.’ ”
In a move seen as part of his effort to curtail interagency rivalries, Freeh recruited John S. Pritchard III, first deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, to help better coordinate the FBI’s work with local and state law enforcement.
Pritchard, 50, who will be one of the FBI’s highest-ranking blacks, worked as an agent and supervisor with Freeh at FBI headquarters and in the New York field office. Freeh also made clear that he is retaining Floyd I. Clarke as the FBI’s No. 2 official.
The new director also is bringing into the FBI an unusually large number of experienced aides to work in newly created posts at the bureau, including two prosecutors who assisted on celebrated cases that helped make Freeh “a genuine law enforcement legend,” as President Clinton described him at the swearing-in ceremony.
They are Robert B. Bucknam, a former Justice Department official and close friend, who helped Freeh in prosecuting the “pizza connection” drug and mob case in New York, and Howard M. Shapiro, who worked with Freeh in winning convictions of the mail bomber who killed a federal appellate judge in Alabama and a civil rights lawyer in Savannah, Ga.
Bucknam, 42, will serve as Freeh’s chief of staff, and Shapiro, now a law professor at Cornell, will be Freeh’s special counsel.
Freeh also is bringing in Bucknam’s brother, James R. Bucknam, 31, who is also a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. He will serve as a senior adviser and project director.