FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT S. MUELLER, III RESPONDS
TO STUDY OF THE FBI’S DISCIPLINARY
PROCESS BY FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL GRIFFIN BELL
AND FORMER FBI ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DR. LEE COLWELL
D.C. -- FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, responded
today to the submission of the report of former
Attorney General Griffin Bell and Dr. Lee Colwell
regarding the FBI’s disciplinary procedures
and process. A study of the disciplinary system
was commissioned at the request of Director Mueller
on May 23, 2003 and was directed by Judge Bell and
Dr. Colwell. Judge Bell, Dr. Colwell, and their
staff conducted a number of interviews of on-board
employees, former employees and individuals from
other government agencies, and reviewed thousands
of documents associated with the FBI’s policies,
procedures, investigations, and adjudications in
the disciplinary process. The purpose of the project
was to develop practical recommendations for improvements
to the FBI’s internal disciplinary process.
Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in the
FBI was established in 1976 to ensure that FBI employees
conduct themselves with the highest level of integrity
and professionalism, and to address any allegations
of employee misconduct or criminality. OPR plays
a crucial role in ensuring that allegations of wrongdoing
are thoroughly investigated and that discipline
is appropriate and fair regardless of the assignment
or seniority of the employee involved. Over the
years, OPR and the disciplinary process have been
modified in order to promote efficiency and effectiveness.
Most recently the disciplinary process came under
review by the Department of Justice, Office of the
Inspector General, following allegations of double
The following is a statement issued by FBI Director
I am announcing the completion of the study of the
FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility by former
Attorney General Griffin Bell and former FBI Associate
Director Dr. Lee Colwell. I asked Judge Bell and
Dr. Colwell to undertake a review of OPR policies
and process, and to provide me practical recommendations
for improving OPR and strengthening institutional
and public confidence in our process for investigating
and adjudicating allegations of employee misconduct.
I announced the commissioning of this project to
all employees in an e-mail on May 23, 2003. The
final report was delivered to me today.
“I am extremely grateful to Judge Bell, Dr.
Colwell, and the law firm of King & Spalding
who worked on this project. The report is very thorough
and sets forth a number of solid practical recommendations.
The FBI fully cooperated with Judge Bell, Dr. Colwell,
and their staff, providing all the input they requested.
To help provide a full range of unvarnished information
to the study team, I sent an e-mail to all FBI employees
on September 25, 2003, urging anyone with relevant
information to provide input for the study and instructing
them that they could do so by directly contacting
the study team. I was grateful to see in the final
report that over 50 in-person interviews were conducted
and more than 100 people accepted my invitation
and provided information directly to the study team,
thus ensuring that Judge Bell and Dr. Colwell had
the benefit of the full range of employee concerns.
The study team also had access to a full range of
relevant documents and statistical information to
aid them in their review.
“I am impressed with the thoughtfulness and
care with which the recommendations were developed.
Based upon my initial review of the report, I intend
to adopt most of the recommendations and have directed
the Inspection Division to implement specific changes
in an expedited manner. Some of these recommendations
will require the establishment of working groups
to develop the specific products or changes called
for in the recommendations. These groups will have
representatives from all relevant divisions of the
FBI, as well as from the various employee ranks,
and will begin their work in the very near future.
I will assign an Inspector in Charge to oversee
the implementation of each major recommendation
to ensure that we make swift progress towards implementing
the improvements suggested by the study.”
Director Mueller received the report from Judge
Bell and Dr. Colwell with a transmittal letter which
may be reviewed on the FBI’s website www.fbi.gov.
The report contains 32 major recommendations, some
of which can be quickly implemented and others for
which working groups will be formed to review and
address the recommendations. The Report identifies
a number of deficiencies in the current OPR process.
In addition to problems with the structure of OPR,
the Report found that cases move far too slowly
through the system, that offenses were vague and
often ill-defined, and that the precedent base used
to determine the level of punishment was seriously
flawed and provided little guidance to the adjudicative
process. The Report also found that technical automation
within OPR was seriously lacking, which contributed
to an overall lack of efficiency.
Recommendations Presented by Judge Bell and Dr.
The report recommends that incentives be created
for high-caliber employees to want assignments
in the OPR field.
Assignments to work on OPR matters will be made
career enhancing and will be included as a means
to complete certain requirements in the FBI’s
management development process required for
promotion to Assistant Special Agent in Charge
(ASAC). The Director also supports the recommendation
of term limits which would rotate employees
through these positions at regular intervals
to bring OPR experience into the field and management
structures and to prevent employee burn-out
from this demanding work.
The report recommends that working groups be
created to develop model offense and guidelines
A working group will be tasked to develop model
offenses and guidelines for punishments that will
be published to all employees and will provide
greater clarity and transparency to the disciplinary
The report recommends the separation of the
investigative and adjudicative functions in
As noted in the Bell/Colwell report, this recommendation
would address the perception that investigators
and adjudicators in the current system act in
an agent-prosecutor relationship. To be credible
to employees, the adjudicator positions must be
professionalized and be structured in a way that
ensures they can be fair and impartial in all
implement this recommendation, the investigative
function will be moved to the Inspection Division.
Adjudications, however, will be retained in OPR,
which will continue to be led by an Assistant
Director who reports to the Deputy Director and
Director. We intend to retain the OPR to reflect
the importance of the OPR function. We will need
the leadership of an Assistant Director to manage
the adjudication process, to maintain the model
offense and punishment guidelines, to conduct
outreach and education to the field, and to constantly
reinforce the importance of maintaining the highest
standards of conduct and ethics.
The report recommends that OPR’s technology
Action: An information technology
project manager has been assigned to assess and
implement necessary upgrades to OPR’s case
management and statistical technology.