FBI shakeup worries some Florida officials©Associated Press
May 31, 2002
MIAMI -- Many Florida law enforcement officials said Thursday they're waiting to see how the FBI's proposed reorganization will affect their ability to fight drug-related, white-collar and violent crimes.
But the sheriff from the state's second-largest county warned the changes will take resources from a strained system, thwarting criminal investigations across the nation.
"This is like a freighter creating a gaping hole in our efforts to fight crime, but we don't know how big that hole will be," Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said.
In response to criticism that the Sept. 11 attacks might have been prevented, FBI director Robert Mueller has proposed shifting hundreds of agents from the war on drugs to the war on terrorism.
Though the reach of the changes won't be clear until after Congress approves the reorganization, local FBI chief Hector Pesquera said it shouldn't affect law enforcement efforts in Florida.
"If some other people step up to the plate and take over where we no longer will be there, then I don't think it's going to be a significant negative impact," he said.
The state's top law enforcement officer, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Tim Moore, said many tasks handled by the FBI, such as violent crime investigations, are being handled well by local and state law enforcement.
Jenne, along with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he supports the antiterrorism fight and the FBI reorganization, but not at the expense of local law enforcement.
They called for the FBI to keep agents in place and hire new personnel to beef up antiterrorism efforts. No one knows how many of the Miami bureau's more than 400 agents will be reassigned, but those picked for antiterrorism duty probably will come from South Florida's antidrug task force, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire