Operation Knock Out
Why Partnerships Matter
In Cases Like Operation Knock Out
For the past few days, Director Robert Mueller has been in Denver—the site of a recent, much-publicized terror arrest—to rub elbows with the nation’s top cops at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, which showcases cutting-edge strategies and technologies and underscores the depth and breadth of law enforcement partnerships around the nation and the world.
In his keynote address today, Mueller spoke not only about the threat of terrorism, but also about crime issues that may hit closer to home for many police chiefs and sheriffs, including the continued growth of violent gangs.
“As illustrated by the recent raids in New York and here in Denver,” Mueller said, “we still face significant threats to our safety from terrorists.” While the primary threat continues to come from al Qaeda and those around the world who embrace its ideology, “we are also concerned with domestic terrorism, and, in particular, lone offenders.”
Identifying and stopping terrorists before they act requires a level of intelligence gathering and sharing that can only result from the “continued collaboration” among law enforcement at every level, he explained. “Regardless of the threat, whether criminal or terrorist, we face the same challenges you do. We need to know where any given threat is moving, and we need to get there first.”
A May 21, 2009 multi-agency raid in Los Angeles is part of the nation's largest-ever gang investigation and prosecution.
The FBI understands that terrorism can’t always be a top priority when police have to contend with violent crime in their communities, Mueller added, “but we must find a way to make the most of our shared resources to fight both crime and terrorism.”
An outstanding example of sharing resources is Operation Knock Out, the nation’s largest ever gang investigation and prosecution, which has been unfolding in Los Angeles. The investigation involved more than 1,400 officers from more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies. Some 200 defendants have been indicted, with more than 130 already in custody. “No one department or agency could have had this kind of impact,” Mueller said. “It took a team.”
Operation Knock Out targeted the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang and other gangs and began after the fatal shooting of a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy four years ago by a Hawaiian Gardens gang member. Last May, a 57-defendant racketeering indictment detailed the gang’s war against the sheriff's department, along with its systematic efforts to rid the community of African-Americans with a campaign of shootings and violence. Raids in July were responsible for the arrests of 27 gang members.
For years, members of the investigative team met on a weekly basis and coordinated operations. One of our Los Angeles agents who worked closely on the case described the collaboration as "truly a brotherhood—each partner working shoulder to shoulder and back to back."
Mueller noted that not long ago, some in law enforcement believed they were responsible only for what happened in their own backyards. But in a global world where collecting and sharing intelligence has become critical, everyone recognizes the need for strong partnerships. “Today,” he said, “we understand that we share one backyard. We are part of one team, with one mission.”