Turning over every loose rock is of ultimate importance when conducting a criminal investigation. Small clues, undetectable by mere mortals, shine like beacons in a trained investigative eye. The highly experienced Sherlock Holmes’s of the world have seen it and done it all before.
Prior to the advancement of forensic sciences, lots of innocent people ended up behind bars based solely on hearsay. “If they say you did it, you must have done it.” Because of these advancements, numerous prisoners have been sprung, some after serving 30 years or longer.
This is not what the U.S. Army wants to see happen, but they have a huge problem that needs tending to before the brig fills up with innocent soldiers. Their investigative staff is extremely overworked and way too under-experienced to properly handle the task at hand.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID), is equivalent to the civilian world’s FBI. But according to four of the CIDs career agents, they aren’t nearly as efficient. Especially on larger Army posts, the agents are working horrendously long hours due to their complete lack of experience with working in the field.
The agents blame at least part of the problem on military police officers who have no knowledge of how to properly investigate felony violations, yet determine which crimes will receive the greatest priority.
Equally as disturbing is how the demands of senior Pentagon officials call for only the most experienced agents, leaving the rookies behind to try and figure how to do things at their assigned Army post.
Freshly classroom trained agents are generally assigned to mega-bases such as Fort Hood or Fort Bragg to get their feet wet. As a result, the biggest bulk of investigators at these large posts are still dayglow green behind the ears.
But as the green begins to fade and these agents grow more competent, either the secretary of defense, the chief of staff or some other lamebrain who thinks they’re important, snatches them up to run security for them.
These selected agents are then transferred to what is known as the Protective Services Battalion, or the PSB, which consumes roughly one-quarter of the CIDs total troop strength.
One of the four agents who spent three-years with the PSB said, “There’s a significant number of agents who are stuck there — a lot of agents come in, they do two-and-a-half years, then they get orders to [Protective Services Battalion], where you don’t do investigations. It’s a completely separate job field … you’re not getting experience with interviews, interrogations, or evidence collection.”
Herein lies the problem. The agent went on to add, “When agents do return to the field, now they’re in a leadership position, and they don’t know the job. That has been going on for a while and it’s really detrimental.”
Army agents receive world-class training. The CID offers enlisted soldiers a phenomenal opportunity said all of the agents. When their skills are properly utilized, agents disrupt narcotics rings, hunt down and capture white-collar criminals, and from time-to-time even solve cold cases. But when they lack experienced leadership or are mismanaged, many of their investigations never get beyond the ground level.
Following the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen who was killed inside of an armory on Ft. Hood, the issue of inexperienced agents was raised. It was found that in the fiscal year 2019, 92% of enlisted agents assigned to Fort Hood were not even rookies. They were apprentices who were not fully accredited to conduct solo investigations.
“Everything they put in that report was said on a daily basis by actual case agents,” said one such agent who was at Ft. Hood when the murder investigations were taking place. “The real problem with the MP [officers] is that they’re trying to run CID units like normal Army units, and that is absolutely impossible to do.”
According to the report, agents bungled the investigation by buying into bogus witness testimony that led them away from Guillen’s real killer. Any experienced investigator would “not have been thrown off by the red herring,” said former FBI inspector, Chris Swecker, who sat on the committee that reviewed the case.
Provost Marshal of the Army Maj. Gen. Martin told the Army Times that she is looking into the situation for solutions in resolving the issue of inexperienced agents being left to conduct vital investigations.
“I can tell you without a doubt, CID is leaning forward on the findings from the report and will continue to perform all felony-level criminal investigations at the highest level,” Martin said. “We are embracing the findings and immediately considering many options and changes in how we move forward, as well as how we are organized and resourced.”