We initiated this evaluation based on a request from Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and John Thune. Their concerns were in response to a constituent’s complaint that focused on the alleged mishandling of sexual assault and drug investigations at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). Based on our interviews conducted with the constituent (complainant), we focused on the following three areas.
- Whether the former USAFA Superintendent impeded Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) investigations by denying AFOSI’s request to interview the USAFA head football coach.
- Whether the former USAFA Superintendent impeded AFOSI criminal investigations when he allowed a “star” football player to play in a 2011 post-season football game even though the football player was the subject of an AFOSI criminal investigation for alleged drug use, in contravention to the USAFA’s zero tolerance policy.
- Whether a USAFA Air Officer Commanding (AOC) impeded an AFOSI sexual assault investigation by informing a cadet suspect that he was the target of planned AFOSI investigative activity.
The constituent’s complaint arose from the AFOSI proactive drug and sexual assault initiative known as “Operation Gridiron.” Therefore, we also evaluated all sexual assault and drug investigations conducted by AFOSI at the USAFA between September 2011 and December 2012, the time period identified in the constituent’s complaint to Senators Gillibrand and Thune. Our objective was to determine whether AFOSI conducted the investigations in accordance with DoD and AFOSI guiding policies.
We did not substantiate that the former USAFA Superintendent impeded AFOSI criminal investigations. We did determine that he denied an AFOSI special agent’s request to interview the USAFA head football coach, an interview we determined to be a logical investigative step. Although the Superintendent’s denial hindered the investigation, his action did not rise to the level of impeding the investigation, in violation of DoD Instruction 5505.03. AFOSI retained the authority and ability to insist on the interview. Instead, through a series of missteps and miscommunications between the AFOSI field units and AFOSI headquarters, AFOSI ultimately made the decision, within its authority, not to conduct the interview of the coach. Furthermore, we determined that AFOSI special agents and leadership did not document in the investigative case files their communications about the proposed interview or the reason they did not interview the USAFA head football coach.
We did not substantiate that the former USAFA Superintendent impeded AFOSI criminal investigations by allowing a USAFA cadet “star” football player to participate in the 2011 post-season Military Bowl football game even though the football player was the subject of an AFOSI criminal investigation for drug use. We determined that the reason the football player was not suspended and was allowed to play in the game was that AFOSI asked the Superintendent not take such action, which would have compromised the AFOSI investigation.
We also did not substantiate that a former USAFA AOC impeded an AFOSI sexual assault investigation by informing a cadet suspect he was the target of planned AFOSI investigative activity. We found no evidence that the AOC informed the suspect about the investigation, but that the AOC only informed the suspect that a restraint order against him was being rescinded.
Additionally, we reviewed the conduct of AFOSI’s investigations of USAFA sexual assault and drug cases between September 2011 and December 2012. We concluded that, in general, they were conducted in accordance with guiding policies. Specifically, we examined 56 drug and sexual assault investigations and determined that all but 4 drug investigations met investigative standards. In each of the four deficient drug investigations, the special agents failed to process a crime scene and failed to document in the investigative case files the reason they did not process the crime scene. We concluded that there was no systemic deficiencies in the investigations, and therefore, we are not making a recommendation regarding those cases.
The Commander, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, should ensure that AFOSI special agents conducting criminal investigations document in the investigative case file when there is perceived command influence or the reason logical investigative steps were not conducted, as required by AFOSI Manual 71-121, “Processing and Reporting Investigative Matters.”
Management Comments and Our Response
The Commander, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, agreed with our recommendation and stated that the requirement is long-standing policy that is already enforced. The Commander further stated that because the AFOSI agents did not document the perceived interference by the former Superintendent, the Commander does not view this as a lack of documentation but rather a lack of a substantive allegation of interference at the time of the investigation.
Comments from the Commander, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, only partially address the specifics of the recommendation because he did not explain why logical investigative steps not conducted were not documented in the investigative case files. For example, the 8th FIR Commander, the senior commander in the FIR, believed that interviewing the head coach was a logical investigative step and should be pursued. We agree with that assessment and believe the decision not to interview the head coach should have been documented in the investigative case files. Therefore, we request that the Commander, AFOSI, provide comments in response to this final report that address the lack of investigative case file documentation by July 8, 2016.
The former USAFA Superintendent provided informal comments agreeing with our finding that he did not impede AFOSI’s investigations.
We also received unsolicited comments from the current USAFA Superintendent. Although she did not comment on the evaluation itself, the Superintendent stated the recognition of prior cadet misconduct caused the USAFA to refocus and enhance its culture and climate. The Superintendent stated that as a result, the USAFA has instituted a series of initiatives directed at improving USAFA culture, climate, and diversity.
This report is a result of Project No. 2014C016.