Secret Service agent's gun, badge stolen. Agency 'in crisis'?

Underlying the agency’s troubles is a workforce that has had to do much more with much less, according to a congressional report this month.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
A member of the Secret Service Uniform Division is seen from inside the Grand Foyer as he looks out from the North Portico during a preview of the 2015 holiday decor at the White House in Washington, on Dec. 2, 2015.

In the latest embarrassment for an important federal law enforcement agency beset by internal woes, a Secret Service agent’s gun, badge, radio, and flash drive were stolen from his car Monday in broad daylight in downtown Washington.

The theft occurred around 4 p.m., according to CNN, which first reported the incident. The agent’s car was parked on G Place, near Secret Service headquarters. It is a relatively busy and safe part of the city.

CNN quotes a District of Columbia police report to the effect that the unnamed agent, returning to his vehicle, noted its rear window “unzipped." This implies it was a convertible, though that is not specified.

“The report lists a black Sig Sauer handgun, an APX6000 radio, handcuffs, a USB flash drive, a black Patagonia bag, and a Secret Service badge, number 1266, as the stolen items,” writes a team of CNN reporters.

Much about this incident remains unknown. It’s not clear whether the agent was breaking any agency protocols by leaving his equipment in a personal car, unsecured.

But the brazen theft in broad daylight is likely bad news for an agency that has had more than its share of difficulties in recent years. The litany is well known at this point: In 2012, agents deployed to Cartagena, Colombia, engaged in personal misconduct. Since 2011, a number of individuals have breached White House security with surprising ease – and in 2014, one armed man made it all the way into the East Room. Then in 2015, intoxicated Secret Service officials meddled with suspected evidence at a possible crime scene outside White House grounds.

Lawmakers from both parties are worried about this trend. Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a tough bipartisan report on Secret Service problems.

“This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis,” said Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah in a statement. “Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist.”

The report noted, for instance, that in the Cartagena incident, some agents left equipment and sensitive documents unsecured in their hotel rooms. The nature of the equipment was not specified in the report.

Underlying the agency’s troubles is a workforce that has had to do much more with much less, according to the congressional report. Since 2011, the Secret Service budget has been cut sharply. The agency’s leadership has done a bad job of managing shortfalls created by fewer dollars, says the study. Employee morale has fallen, leading experienced agents to walk out the door.

“Many agency personnel who spoke to the Committee are desperate for new outside leadership willing to undertake dramatic reforms at the agency,” the report concludes.

The study’s recommendations include paring back Secret Service responsibilities to focus on its core duty of protection of the president and other top officials, and sufficient funds to restore staffing to required levels.

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