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Saturday, April 20, 2024

GAO: Improvements Needed for Unit of Native American Law Enforcement Personnel

Since its inception in 1974, the Shadow Wolves, a Native American tracking unit under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have played a vital role in combatting smuggling activities from Mexico to the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation in Arizona. However, recent changes in operational focus and challenges in recruitment and planning have prompted a thorough examination by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Initially established to utilize both traditional Indigenous tracking methods and modern technology for narcotics interdiction, the program underwent a significant shift in 2015. ICE transitioned the program’s emphasis from interdiction to investigation, where the focus shifted to gathering evidence and executing warrants. However, GAO identified a critical gap in the agency’s approach—the lack of a clearly defined mission, goals, and staffing needs post-transition. Establishing these foundational elements would enable ICE to align the program’s operations with desired impacts and formulate effective recruitment strategies.

In response to the evolving landscape and challenges, ICE issued a recruitment and expansion strategy for the Shadow Wolves in October 2022. While the strategy outlines high-level recruitment methods, such as partnering with colleges and recruiting tribal law enforcement officers, it falls short in incorporating specific goals, timelines, and milestones. GAO emphasizes that integrating these elements would empower ICE to assess the efficacy of its recruitment plans and track progress effectively. Given the program’s current aging workforce, with most Shadow Wolves eligible for retirement and no new hires since 2007, the report underscores the importance of developing a succession plan. This proactive approach would ensure that experienced Shadow Wolves can contribute to the training and development of new recruits.

Note Generally federal law enforcement personnel must retire at age 57 or when they complete 20 years of certain specialized federal service after age 57

Moreover, ICE’s strategic plan for Shadow Wolves expansion to other tribal lands lacks defined criteria for location evaluation and selection. GAO underscores the necessity for ICE to establish transparent and consistent criteria for assessing potential expansion sites. This approach would enhance the evaluation process, allowing officials to make informed decisions about the feasibility and appropriateness of expanding the program.

The report, commissioned under the Shadow Wolves Enhancement Act, acknowledges the program’s historical significance and its contributions to arrests and drug seizures. By addressing the identified gaps in mission definition, staffing needs, recruitment strategies, and expansion planning, ICE can fortify the Shadow Wolves program for continued success. As the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation remains a focal point for illicit cross-border activity, the strategic enhancement of the Shadow Wolves program becomes pivotal for safeguarding communities and upholding border security. The GAO’s comprehensive assessment provides valuable insights to guide ICE in fortifying the Shadow Wolves program for the evolving challenges ahead.

Read the full GAO report here.

author avatar
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.

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