Nick's Blog

Personal opinions. Aggressively stated.

Asset Forfeiture

The art of confiscating from criminals their assets is a dark one. The United States is pretty good at guaranteeing liberty and freedom from confiscation, but over the last several decades, especially since the dawn of the “war on drugs”, in the years of Reagan and Bush The Greater, federal, state and local police have been able to get their hands on quite a bit, actually. Like cars, homes, boats, trucks, and other property used to commit crime. Assets of criminals which are used to support a criminal act or conspiracy are fair game. Narcotics and fugitive task force officers frequently ride in cars confiscated from drug dealers and captured fugitives.

So you’d think that this would be a fairly key thing to get us up to speed with, and you’d be wrong. Turns out that the state licensing authority feels that because this is a basic police academy, we really only need to know the basics of asset forfeiture, which makes sense, if you think about it. So we had a morning of it. Interesting stuff, about which I can’t really reveal anything aside from what I just did.

The afternoon was set aside for us to have computer time in the computer resource center – you’ll remember we’ve lost our laptop privileges since the Great Wednesday Morning Ass Chew, so this was the first computer time we’ve been given.

The reason for this digital largess is that we cadets must pass three federal examinations for the National Incident Management System and become NIMS certified before graduating the academy. NIMS “integrates best practices into a standardized comprehensive framework,” so as you might guess, it’s both doomed to failure and jam-packed with the over-breathless verbiage that only a sub-standard sub-contracted marketing firm can provide to a government contractor to explain how it will be “flexible enough to be applicable across the full spectrum of potential incidents.”

Watch this:

“NIMS provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.”

Okay, so they have that whole, “Emergency” thing down. It’s solved. It’s seamless. Or, as my former boss used to say to vendors trying to sell us something, “I know it’s an end-to-end solution. But is it tightly integrated?”

Not only is it tightly integrated, it’s integrated through the National Integration Center!

“The Secretary of Homeland Security, through the National Integration Center, publishes the standards, guidelines, and compliance protocols for determining whether a Federal, State, tribal, or local government has implemented NIMS. Additionally, the Secretary, through the NIC, manages publication and collaboratively, with other departments and agencies, develops standards, guidelines, compliance procedures, and protocols for all aspects of NIMS.”

Awesome. Okay, perhaps I’m being cynical. Maybe this time, the government has managed to effectively make a program to coordinate federal, state, tribal and local governments – all of whom hate one another and all of whom are convinced that the others are incompetent, dunderheaded, untrustworthy, arrogant asses. Let’s scroll over to the ol’ Frequently Asked Questions section of the website:

Number 1 Most Frequently Asked Question

Q: I still have not received my training certificate for a course I took on the EMI* Web site. What should I do?

Oh dear.

They can’t even get the certificates to the people they’ve trained. Let’s call them when a hurricane eats Baton Rouge, shall we?

I’m not going to say that the online training was awful. There’s enough redundancy in government. I’ll say that as a desperate attempt to get this over with the night before, I looked at the study materials for an hour, despaired, and went to take the test blind, merely in order to make it stop.

Question 1 of 25 : Within the Operations Section, a Director supervises each:

a. Unit.
b. Group.
c. Division.
d. Branch.

Oh dear.

The problem NIMS set out to solve was that of the nomenclature confusion which arises whenever more than one agency comes together to fight a common enemy. Of course, any job has its jargon, but with law enforcement and emergency management, getting little bits of jargon confused can be more than inconvenient. It’s not like confusing things because the New York office calls it a WAMPUS and the London office calls it a WANKUS; when people with guns and large trucks get confused over jargon, bad things can happen.

Take the cooperation of the US Marine Corps in quelling the April, 1992 riots in Los Angeles. As shots were fired towards officers from inside a building, the cops yelled to the Marines, “Cover us!” at which point the Marines nodded enthusiastically, and, as the cops charged towards the building, the Marines began firing their rifles at the house.

You know, cover. **

So NIMS, after hiring legions of consultants (one of whom wrote this: “Use of an openĀ­source software simulation platform enables a training methodology to produce high fidelity emergency incident simulations. The training methodology can be tailored not only to all hazards and public safety disciplines, but also can span the range from operational tasks to strategic command level functions within a given simulation.”), created an entirely new nomenclature and command structure which has the distinct advantage of being unfamiliar to each and every single agency expected to use it.

Good plan!

So this afternoon when we had to take the four hours and complete our third essay, plus finish our NIMS training, we actually had to study the NIMS guide.

Not all of us. Some of the cadets – and of course I won’t say which – may have used some alternate methods of passing. You know, like copying the questions from the NIMS website and pasting them, within quotation marks, into the Google search engine and, you know, researching the correct answer.

In any event, we all studied and took the examinations and passed them. And I completed the third and final essay.

Five days of instruction left.

*EMI, the Emergency Management Institute, seems to be the bucket organization that coordinates training to make all these people work together.

** Delk, JD (1995) “Fires & Furies: The L.A. Riots” ETC Publications, Palm Springs, Calif. 1995), pp. 221-22; see also Parameters, Summer 1997, US Army War College pp. 88-109 By the way, no one inside the house – not the people and not the, ah, children home at the time, was injured. I’m not sure what that says about our Marines.

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