ASUPD spends federal grant money on items “outside the grant’s purpose”

Anti-terrorism ‘fusion centers’ get failing marks from US panel

October 08, 2012 12:00 am    Maryann Batlle Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – Arizona agencies were among those singled out in a two-year Senate probe that reported “widespread deficiencies” in a Homeland Security Department program that officials touted for years as a centerpiece in U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

The report found that the local-federal “fusion centers” that were supposed to aid the federal government in terrorism prevention instead produced intelligence that was “oftentimes shoddy” and “unrelated to terrorism.” It also said federal officials could not adequately track millions of dollars directed to the centers.

Included in the questionable spending was money to Arizona law enforcement agencies that was used to buy sport utility vehicles and to outfit the “wire room,” a surveillance monitoring room at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, the state’s fusion center.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a written statement that the committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations “found a remarkable degree of ineffectiveness, ineptitude and waste” in the program.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, said the subcommittee’s report is “wrong and misleading by omission.” She said she believes fusion centers provide “a big service to the community” by augmenting existing counterterrorism efforts.

There are 77 fusion centers across the country. While the state and local law enforcement hubs perform many roles, their anti-terrorism functions were beefed up, and the number of centers increased, after 9/11 to aid the federal government in terrorism prevention.

Matt Mayer, a former senior Homeland Security official who worked under Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, said he fought the expansion of the centers but lost. Mayer said the department focused on “quantity over quality” and is underfunding centers in critical areas.

“There are bright spots out there … but, unfortunately, a lot of (fusion centers) exist that don’t deserve funding,” said Mayer, now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Among its findings, the subcommittee said that DHS could not provide an “accurate tally” of the program’s total costs, but that estimates ranged from $289 million to $1.4 billion.

Some of that DHS grant money went to the Arizona Department of Public Safety to fund initiatives at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.

The subcommittee questioned federal oversight of some of the Arizona spending, including one case when a state official expressed concern about the legitimacy of spending $1.98 million to lease space, which is not strictly allowed. The state official was assured it would be OK in an email, complete with smiley-face emoticon, from an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Federal funds also paid for two SUVs outfitted with specialized equipment, most of which fell outside of the scope of the program, the report said.

The Department of Public Safety used about $33,500 in grant funds to buy an SUV in 2008 for a terrorism liaison officer at the Flagstaff Fire Department, and another $9,400 on aftermarket equipment that would let it respond to chemical, biological and other events. But the report said such responses are unrelated to “essential fusion center capability” under the program.

“The city official to whom the vehicle was assigned told the subcommittee he keeps the truck at his house and uses it primarily to commute between his home and the Flagstaff Fire Department,” the report said.

In 2009, the Arizona State University Police Department got an SUV that was paid for with about $47,000 in grant funds, also for a terrorism liaison officer. Again, the subcommittee found the expenses outside the grant’s purpose.

The subcommittee also pointed to $64,000 in federal funds used to buy software, a laptop, monitors and two 42-inch flat-screen televisions for “the wire room,” a surveillance room used for criminal investigations. But the subcommittee noted that program guidelines “do not include covert or surreptitious intelligence gathering.”

The report said the centers have not “yielded timely, useful” counterterrorism information. It noted that ACTIC was linked to incorrect information after the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson, which suggested that shooter Jared Lee Loughner was linked to an anti-Semitic and anti-government group. Many of the claims made in the document were later proven false, the report said.

Fusion confusion

Included in a Senate investigation into federal spending on local-federal “fusion centers” was spending by Arizona officials on items that members of the subcommittee questioned:

• In 2008, the Arizona Department of Public Safety spent more than $33,500 on a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and another $9,400 to install aftermarket equipment. The report said the expenditures were unrelated to “essential fusion center activity.”

• In 2009, the state used $47,000 in Department of Homeland Security funds for a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that it gave to the Arizona State University Police Department.

• In 2009, roughly $64,000 went for surveillance-technology training and to equip a criminal-investigation surveillance room, known as “the wire room,” for Arizona’s fusion center. It bought software, a new laptop, monitors and two 42-inch flat screen televisions, even though the program does not call for “surreptitious intelligence gathering.”

• In 2011, faulty intelligence originating from the Arizona fusion center suggested Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner might have been be linked to an anti-Semitic and anti-government group, claims that later proved to be false.

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13 thoughts on “ASUPD spends federal grant money on items “outside the grant’s purpose”

  1. DL500unit says:

    When he said, “found a remarkable degree of ineffectiveness, ineptitude and waste” I immediately thought of Chief John Pickens and his command posse mismanaging the funds of the Arizona State University Police Department…now mismanaging federal national security dollars…big surprise!

    “Back it up, show us the facts!” Ok John boy, look at this.
    ASUPD budget 11 million, U of A budget 5 million. ASUPD fields half the officers, sometimes far less, for patrol than U of A. Not to mention they have drug dogs, a lot, and we have none.

    In conclusion…the U of A chief and command are winners while ASU police chief and command couldn’t organize sex in a whore house, let alone run a pd. They said the same where’s the beef, where’s the patrol officers at chief’s last university mismanagement job.

  2. DontLoLMeJP says:

    Wow…the budget comparison is insane. When we have twice the money and half the patrol presence of U of A something is seriously fucked up on the third floor.

    Let’s face it, we have a lot of dead weight. JP and command aren’t cheap, he’s 160k, two AC’s at 100+k, 5 commanders at 100k, the what 17 sergeants at at least 70k? Someone should submit a FOIA for all requisitions by year, see what and how much was blown for non-department stuff.

    They misallocated (stole) Homeland Security money to beef up a “speciality” bomb dog/non-drug dog unit we never ever use except for OT at the football games when we have several other outside agency canine units.

    If they steel money meant for national security, what else are they capable of justifying? How many special trips and other garbage that takes away from keeping the university safe?

  3. indeedYOUsay says:

    If their understanding of grant money for Homeland Security is like some of our officer’s understanding of search and seizure, ARS, then I’m surprised this money wasn’t used for picnics, lunches, parties, or whatever.

    Look at the chief’s understanding of this blog, to him it’s all a personal attack against him and it’s strictly personal. He blows up at us about this, but has he challenged anything here? Has he done anything about the problems? The time for getting rewarded for doing nothing is over.

    In reality people are upset about how our department, state government resources, have been mismanaged, wasted, we’re upset kids are getting hurt, hooked on drugs, and everyone is place in jeopardy because we don’t have the resources to do our jobs on patrol, we have the money, but it is being mismanaged.

    You know who should be upset? The parents. The Arizona State University has become an opium den where kids can get anything they want any time, someone always knows someone. Our recruiting video shows a narcotics specialty position with the officer next to bales of marijuana, a room full of it. That’s not our bust, our officer works with Tempe full time, not us, just like our single bike position. The lies are supposed to come from the criminals, not your police department. People lie when they have something to hide.

  4. ASUPDsmokeNmirrors says:

    Great, we’rd using money meant to fight terrorism for ASU Police Department Welfare. All these places undermining national security should be held responsible.

    Is there a single working calculator in the Tempe station? You look at how much money is going out, how top heavy the department is, the predatory management models, how patrol is a revolving door, raises given only for promotion, and you have a classic model of failed management tolerated and rewarded at ASUPD for over a decade.

    • WheresMy907 says:

      At the next awards banquet, where command gives each other awards, an outgoing employee needs to present the chief with a shemagh. This can be his award for acting as a 5th column who aided terrorism by diverting necessary resources to weaken national security. Then it’s off to Guantanamo for supervision.

  5. WheresMy907 says:

    This isn’t surprising. Chief keeps holding his hands out for more money, begging the state, the feds, but where is the money going?

    Our cars are falling apart, our training is on online using the university blackboard system, our computers are junk, tons of equipment doesn’t work, so you either don’t use it or find a workaround. A bunch of obscure universities I never heard of have more officers than us with less of a budget, so where is the money going?

    The rifles were donated but few have the training made available to use them. The department makes what we make on every overtime detail before taxes. Again, where’s the money going? Michael Crow, Morgan Olsen do you know? I know John Pickens knows.

  6. Justanotherdispensible50 says:

    Surprise, surprise, not surprised. Taking this money and not using it for it’s intended purpose is like taking money out of Jerry’s kids box at the convenience store to cover your purchase after raiding the free penny cup.

    You are dealing with people, command, who will justify things in their heads that don’t make sense on paper. They group think things through without seeking outside or learned perspectives. The pay and title of their jobs changed, but their knowledge in police work remained relatively unchanged.

    Command from other agencies have received extensive amounts of training doing police work at their department, advanced degrees,and outside L.E.O only classroom training to justify their salaries.

    It’s like the grant we received for ballistic vests. Are we complying with those mandates or did we just take the money once we got it and used it for whatever? Departments are supposed to supply and replace ballistic vests for their people every five years, so why didn’t we have the money prior to this grant?

  7. Supervisor Facepalm says:

    When you have worked around our present command staff for years, especially prior to their appointments, you really get to see how their minds work. They operate with their own knowledge of something to a point, but when that fails them they are more than willing to “wing it” because they can get away with it.

    They will interpret policy the way some of them interpret law, not impartially, but with whatever suits their case, their opinion, or their prejudices. When it comes to grant writing and justifying the need for federal funds a story had to be built to release the funding.

    Based on how our lazy command operates I would bet they(they have done this extensively with policies) acquired other police department grant examples and copy pasted ASUPD information in them to get the funding without concern for being entirely accurate or truthful.

    Look at how they handle employees. It’s who you know, not what you can bring to this organization. It’s who you know, not what you did or didn’t do that will determine how you are treated. They are used to telling everyone they really care; saying negative issues aren’t true out one side of their face and something entirely different out the other. This is the workplace environment Chief Pickens has encouraged.

    He enjoys the infighting until it affects his office. It’s backfired; it’s affecting his office and continues to grow. He has made it quite clear this blog affects him. It is increasingly public domain, means much more to him than whatever you can say to him in person. He’s not a people person, but a vainglorious one. You are certainly on the right track. The department money issues are big, but there are many more issues near and dear to them and this university that will undeniably change the department from the outside.

    There are things I won’t say here that I will email you privately. I see the game command is playing with along with their bosses and it’s not right. They have no intention of doing anything other than assessing and minimizing the university’s liability and exposure to negative press.

  8. Captain Obvious says:

    Surprise, surprise, surprise. Does anyone know of a complaint process for Federal Grant Money misallocation? Every avenue needs to be pursued to hold these people accountable for a change. I wonder what other grants they diverted funds from?

  9. RUkiddingMe says:

    These guys have no problem getting funding for all their stupid shit. A honest work day can’t exist when you don’t pay for your own lunches. Keep in mind these are the same people who vote for each other to receive rewards, pay a lot of money to make awards, pay a lot of money to host and cater awards banquets, and them give each other the awards as if they mean something.

    I would say you could use these “awards” as fertilizer, but just because they’re made out of shit it doesn’t make them useful. Keep wasting money that could serve a purpose! Whenever you hear about a fault in the requisition process, the names of Rourke/Hardweiner are always popping up. How much do two clown costumes cost?

  10. DoneSon says:

    Why don’t we put this in perspective to see what type of people we’re talking about. The whole university was set to go on furlough back in 2008. Furlough meaning employees had to go home and not get paid because the university was claiming it didn’t have the money to pay them.

    What does ASUPD Chief John Pickens do? He give command a 10% raise ($10,000 and above)hoping to cover the potential loss if furloughed, but they never did go because they were thought of as police and “essential” public safety.

    While the rest of the university starved it out, was downsized, fired, ASUPD Chief J.P and his flunkies received a huge bonus for nothing! This place is an integrity sinkhole and anyone who trusts the snakes running our department is in for a surprise. Michael Crow should have this department investigated and the findings sent to AZPOST for peace officer certification revocation.

  11. guerriero says:

    I can only imagine where they are blowing the budget. What does it say about a public official who has to hide the books, not let people see where their money was spent.

    Why are outside agencies the ones doing bug drug busts at ASU? Because their departments focus on god damn police work, not fucking around with feel good nonsense.

  12. popo39machine says:

    The grant money, the budget money, the money we spend on training people for other agencies, the money being wasted by our administration is not a concern for the people spending it. There’s no accountability.

    Just like communism, if Ivan makes a good shoe and Igor makes shitty shoes they both get paid the same, no accountability to make a good shoe, no incentive.

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