CRS cooperation with other agencies


Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you work with the other federal agencies given that most of them are enforcement agencies? Presumably, you're doing a very different thing until you find out who did it and prosecute them. So how do you coordinate with them?

Answer:
For example, they may call us to help them create some confidence with the community. Often times, the community may already not trust them, but they do trust us because they know us. We've worked with them for years. We can go and help them to create trust. At some of those regional meetings where the teams were brought in, they began to see us as a team. But we didn't cross our boundaries in terms of enforcement and community support. We had to work together. Their priority was to find the perpetrator, our priority was healing the community. Those are very valid and different. There became more of an appreciation from the law enforcement side for what we did. They saw what we did and they saw the impact of it. They saw that their job became easier because of what we did. It also said to the community that there is an administrative response that includes all of us, and that was important for the government.

Question:
Was there a state level response as well as federal?

Answer:
From the state police, local police, and the fire marshals, yes. They were involved also as part of the working team.

Question:
But beside law enforcement, was anyone else involved?

Answer:
One of the state agencies that was most involved was the state sheriff's association. They were at every one of our team-building meetings. They helped sponsor them, as a matter of fact. There was one guy who was the head of that, who had incredible personal power as well as position power. If he told some of the sheriffs that we were doing something, they would come because they trusted him. He was a great resource. The state police were involved from the law enforcement perspective. Of course local police were always brought into the network. It was probably the best example of inner agency cooperation that I've ever seen, and a great testament to that effort.






Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You mentioned yesterday that you spent a year on the church-burning task force. Tell me about that.

Answer:
When the public outcry over the church burnings hit its peak, toward the end of 1995, the administration had to do something. There had to be a public response. The group obviously most competent in that field was CRS. However, the staff had just diminished down to forty-five people across the whole country, so they didn't have the resources. So they started calling some of us back on contract if we were willing. If they called me back today and said they had a situation they needed me to help them with, I'd go in a minute. I think most of us have that commitment to the task, regardless of any of the problems we talk about. There is a commitment to the task. I would help in a minute. So I was glad to do that. They put together teams, and I was working out of Birmingham. What we did was go to communities where fires had occurred. Our role was to coordinate with the other federal agencies, the F.B.I., the ATF, the local law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney's office. We all became a part of a team, and it was one of the most effective cooperative efforts I've been a part of. So that became a good model for some future things they might do. Green County, Alabama was where several fires were, so we spent a lot of time there. We did the same kinds of intervention that we would've done in any circumstance. We found out where the tensions were, where the perceptions between the races were, and if it was causing additional tension. Was it likely to erupt into any other violence? In many instances, many communities just did what they needed to do. They didn't need our intervention.







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