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Exclusive: DEA recruits describe agency racism, ‘monkey noises’

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AP federal law enforcement writer Jim Mustian reported exclusively on a string of recent discrimination complaints by minority recruits at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s training academy, including one allegation that a firearms instructor taunted black trainees with “monkey noises.”

Mustian, based in New York, has reported extensively on problems within the DEA. This latest story grew directly out of a piece he wrote in June about the chronic struggles the agency has had in bringing minorities into its ranks. After that story ran, several people both inside and outside of the DEA contacted Mustian with accounts of discrimination and subjective decisions that penalized minorities in hiring and promotion, specifically from the earliest training at the DEA academy.

Most explosive was the allegation that a firearms instructor not only called a Black trainee a “monkey” to his face but also took to a shooting range loudspeaker to taunt a group of Black trainees with “monkey noises.” Mustian did everything he could to verify the accusation with both the DEA and people who were there at the time. DEA not only didn’t deny the incidents, it gave Mustian an on-the-record comment and confirmed that the instructor involved was able to retire before he could be disciplined. Mustian also got a brief comment from the now-retired instructor himself.

Getting trainees to talk about such incidents, which are ordinarily never made public, was the real reporting feat of this story. Several other trainees told Mostian about more subtle acts of bias and of feeling singled out and held to a higher standard than their white counterparts.

Mustian’s exclusive, with photos of one of the accusers, received strong play and prominent online placement \on a very busy Friday, ranking in the Top 5 on the AP News. But most significantly, Mustian’s latest story prompted several more people to contact him with new accounts of discrimination within the DEA that could result in another significant follow-up.

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