Secret Service warned about officer fatigue

Story highlights

  • The Secret Service's director has received a warning after two officers were caught napping at their posts
  • The Secret Service strongly denied the allegations of overwork

Washington (CNN)The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has sent a stern warning to the Secret Service after two officers were caught napping at their posts, saying that agents are overworked and creating a security risk.

The "management alert," which was sent to Secret Service Director Joe Clancy this week, came after two incidents over the summer in which officers -- one of whom was at the White House -- were found to be asleep on the job.
They were discovered while officials from the inspector general's office were touring facilities as part of an ongoing review of Secret Service radio communications. Both officers were referred by the Secret Service for disciplinary action.
    According to the alert, one of the officers had worked nearly 60 hours of overtime in the two weeks prior to the incident. It said Secret Service employees described that as "minimal" compared to other officers' schedules.
    The officer told investigators that long hours, travel and illness contributed to falling asleep. In particular, he cited a 36-hour shift involving a trip to Kenya.
    The other officer reported regularly working 12-hour days. That officer blamed working in the heat and a lack of water.
    "Fatigue from travel, overtime shifts and long hours contributed to these incidents," the alert said. It refers to a prior DHS panel's finding describing the detail at the White House as "overstretched" and "exhausted" with "low morale." The panel found that officers regularly work 12-hour days for 13-day stretches, followed by one day off.
    "These issues impact officer safety and the agency's ability to meet its mission," the alert said.
    The Secret Service strongly denied the allegations of overwork in a sharply worded statement.
    "Regarding these two incidents, scheduling and staffing issues were not contributing factors to the misconduct by these officers, nor do they serve as an excuse for their behavior," the statement said. "In both instances, the officers had sufficient days off prior to the incident."
    But several Secret Service officers, asked about conditions such as 12-hour shifts for 13 days, have told CNN such workloads are not unusual.
    The inspector general's office is working on a broader review that includes workload and morale after a string of Secret Service embarrassments, including an incident in which a man jumped a fence and ran across the White House's north lawn, making it all the way inside the residence through an unlocked front door.
    Clancy, who became Secret Service director in February, has vowed to turn the agency around, and it has been actively recruiting new officers.