After temporarily closing in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) reopened its facilities in June 2020 with “reengineered training programs” designed to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19.
The facility in Glynco, Georgia has nine dormitories with space for as many as 2,957 students. In recent months, FLETC has begun providing regular on-campus COVID-19 vaccination events for students, staff, and contract employees. As of August 2021, FLETC has arranged for more than 1,500 staff and 1,800 students to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine across all of its training facilities.
After the June 2020 reopening, FLETC paused training on November 1, 2020 after 30 students tested positive for COVID-19. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) subsequently conducted a review to determine the actions that the Glynco training center has taken to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among staff and students.
OIG’s review found that through the new training plan, along with other policies and procedures, FLETC established protocols in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance and medical expertise. DHS students and component officials OIG spoke with confirmed that these protocols were in place and said that, overall, they were effective.
OIG determined that as a result of its mitigation measures, FLETC’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests was lower than that of its surrounding county. However, DHS students and component officials also raised concerns related to students not following certain requirements such as mask wearing. In instances such as these, FLETC largely relied on students’ home agencies to act to reinforce compliance with safety protocols among their students, or to take disciplinary action if necessary.
OIG’s review also discovered that FLETC did not always follow its own protocols for housing assignments related to COVID-19. The watchdog’s analysis of housing records for a sample of 20 DHS students at the Glynco training facility found issues with housing assignments for half the students. For example, some students who were not positive for COVID-19 or were not quarantined for exposure to COVID-19 were still housed in the isolation dormitory. Some of the students who were incorrectly assigned to the isolation dormitory told OIG that they did not feel safe.
In order to ensure housing protocols are clearly defined and followed, OIG recommends that FLETC implement controls for the remainder of the COVID-19 response and in plans for future pandemic responses. FLETC concurred with the recommendation and has already reinforced pre-existing practices regarding housing protocols and implemented a new approval process for any modifications to those protocols. FLETC is also memorializing protocols related to housing assignments in a revised standard operating procedure specific to pandemic operations. Which it expects to complete by October 29, 2021.