Boulder releases amended version of agreement with FBI

Thursday, June 16, 2022 (Updated Saturday, June 18)

Boulder has released an amended version of a controversial agreement that the city supply one police officer to work on anti-terrorism efforts with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The additions are meant to provide a level of local control over the federal agency during work that has been heavily criticized by activists and marginalized groups targeted by the FBI.

As part of the agreement, one Boulder police officer will work 16 hours per week on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The city will continue to pay the officer’s salary for that time.

Read the amended agreement

City council in February authorized the Boulder Police Department to enter into the Memorandum of Understanding, by a 6-3 vote. Dissenting council members echoed concerns of the community about the FBI’s history of profiling and prosecuting political protesters and Black activists, particularly; those in the majority were swayed by Police Chief Maris Herold’s warnings about Boulder’s vulnerability to growing far-right, domestic extremism.

The JTTF itself has come under scrutiny nationally for misconduct. In Boulder, debates over the partnership included questions about whether or not the officer would be required to wear a body-worn cameras.

Four paragraphs were added to the end of the formal agreement, stating that the Boulder officer will follow Boulder policy — unless they conflict with federal rules.

“The Parties agree the cross-designated officer, while acting as an FBI Task Force Officer, is required to follow BPD policies and procedures relating to administrative matters to include officer misconduct and discipline; body worn cameras, BPD’s Values and Rule,” an addendum to the agreement reads.

“If these policies and procedures conflict, the cross-designated officer, while acting as an FBI Task Force Officer, shall follow Department of Justice, U.S.Attorney General, and FBI policies when working on FBI matters or shall remove himself from the FBI matter so as to not violate Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General, and FBI policies.”

This caveat undermines the will of council, members of the Boulder County NAACP branch wrote in a prepared statement.

“Council wanted assurances that the officer working on the JTTF would be subject to BPD guidelines,” the statement reads. The currently released MOU makes no concession to this, instead it states explicitly that the JTTF will only be bound by BPD guidelines until the FBI’s rules differ from the BPD.”

View the full statement

The NAACP was among the critics of partnering with the FBI, given the agency’s history of targeting Black groups and activists.

“Transparency and accountability for actions with the FBI and JTTF cannot be enforced — this has been proven from numerous accounts from other, much larger cities,” they wrote after viewing the updated agreement. “Due to the FBI’s history, people of color and activist groups have legitimate concerns and no assurances.”

The addendum to the agreement stipulates that city council will receive yearly updates from the FBI on anti-terrorism work. It’s unclear how much information will be shared; much of the work of the anti-terrorism task force is classified.

Per the agreement, all “materials and investigative records” are the property of the FBI, “to include but not limited to: MOUs, interview reports, interview notes, surveillance logs, subpoenaed records, or other investigative information. All information
generated in the course of investigations by the JTIF will be controlled solely by the FBI.”

“Supervisors in the Participating Agency responsible for the JTIF personnel may only be provided with classified information if they have the appropriate security clearance to receive the classified information and the requisite ‘need to know.'”

The Boulder officer who joins the task force will sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Council voted to OK the agreement before changes were made, so a vote on the new version is not needed or planned. Their conditions were for regular reports, limiting the agreement to a single Boulder officer and adding language specifying that BPD policies would be followed. 

NAACP members dispute that the new agreement satisfies these criteria, as it does not explicitly state that only one officer will join the JTTF. The previous discussion at city council indicated that only one officer is intended for the team.

The agreement will be in place for at least two years and renewed every three, though Boulder can remove its officer from the task force “at will,” also added in recent revisions.

Author’s note: This article has been updated with comments from the local NAACP.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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