Army considers civilian oversight of criminal investigations following Fort Hood report

The army chief of staff said on Thursday that the service has launched pilot programs that will send independent review teams into the force to see if the climate in the units allows sexual harassment and assault to take place. produce without control.

“We are currently running pilot projects where we have an independent review team that goes to a unit and does a survey of the whole unit, to get a sense of what is really going on,” said the General James McConville to reporters at a Defense Writers. Group discussion.

McConville’s announcement comes three months after the military released the results of an independent examination of Fort Hood, Texas, which found that the base’s command climate allowed for a culture of sexual assault and of harassment to fester in the ranks.

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The chief said he saw “some value” in the use of independent reviews in the future, as standard military surveys do not always present a clear picture of the true atmosphere within a community. unity.

“We’ve done some investigations before, but the investigations are more about your level of compliance, you know, how many sexual assault response coordinators do you have, have they been trained? Said McConville.

Independent reviews “are designed to get into the culture and to get into the climate and then we can actually get after that,” he added.

“I don’t think it hurts to have people peeking outside the organization sometimes; it’s very hard to change if you’re part of the system,” he said. he declares. contacted the military on Friday for details on which units will be part of the review pilot, but did not receive an immediate response.

The independent review of Fort Hood also found that the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) detachment at the post was made up of inexperienced and overworked officers who failed to control the post’s culture of violent crime and drug abuse. drug.

The service is considering a proposal to redesign the CID as an independent organization with civilian leadership instead of the current military police command structure, the Army Times reported. Such a change could cost around half a billion dollars and take more than 10 years, according to the outlet.

“We’re taking a look at it right now.… There are opinions on both sides,” McConville said. “It might not just be about civilizing everything, and it might not make everything military. There may be a hybrid in there, but we are not ready to make that final decision.”

The military wants to make sure the CID has the “right level of expertise, especially on the sexual harassment side, because we tend to think of them as administrative type investigations,” he said. “I think it’s very, very important that even though we experience sexual harassment, we experience sexual assault, we experience all kinds of racism and extremism, we [also] have the right investigators who can really have the skills needed after that.

“The end state is to put in place the best law enforcement, so that we can hold people accountable for these horrible behaviors that are happening in the military,” McConville said.

The independent review of Fort Hood came up with 70 recommendations aimed at addressing key flaws in the grassroots military’s sexual harassment and assault prevention program, or SHARP. Department heads review these issues to see if they exist across the force. The military is also fighting over how to rid its ranks of racism and extremism, issues that every service has been tasked with tackling.

In February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III ordered each of the services to devote time daily to discussing the issue of extremism and extremist ideology, as military leaders attempt to determine the extent to which these systems of beliefs are prevalent among the troops.

“What really boils down is when we look at where most of the problems arise in the US military, it’s with our 17 to 24 year olds,” McConville said. “Young soldiers come into the army … and they bring the culture or the climate where they come from.

“And quite frankly, we have to change that in a lot, and we have to make sure that they understand that there is no place in our military for sexual harassment and assault. There is no such thing as. place in our army for racism and extremism, “he said. added.

– Matthew Cox can be contacted at [email protected].

Related: Inexperienced, overworked Fort Hood CID faces re-examination in military investigation

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Mark M. Gagnon