By mid morning on Monday, September 17, as Occupy Wall Street protesters marched around the perimeter of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, all signs that an FRPD (Federal Reserve Police Department) existed had disappeared. The FRPD patrol cars and law enforcement officers had been replaced by NYPD patrol cars and officers. That decision may have been made to keep from drawing attention to a mushrooming new domestic police force that most Americans do not know exists.
The 12 regional Federal Reserve banks are legally private entities, yet they have their own police forces under the authority of the United States government. They have possessed this authority for over a decade.
They do not broadcast this authority. They prefer to keep this fact in the background. But they hire armed officers to police their own affairs.
Why do private agencies possess such authority under the United States Constitution? Because this is not your grandfather’s Constitution any more. The Patriot Act changed all that.
Quietly, without fanfare or Congressional hearings, the USA Patriot Act in 2001 bestowed on the 12 privately owned Federal Reserve Banks, domestic policing powers.
Section 364 of the Act, “Uniform Protection Authority for Federal Reserve,” reads:
“Law enforcement officers designated or authorized by the Board or a reserve bank under paragraph (1) or (2) are authorized while on duty to carry firearms and make arrests without warrants for any offense against the United States committed in their presence…Such officers shall have access to law enforcement information that may be necessary for the protection of the property or personnel of the Board or a reserve bank.”
The police officers are technically known as FRLEO, short for Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Officer. The system has its own police academies for training, their own patch and badges, uniforms, pistols, rifles, police cars and the power to arrest coast to coast without a warrant. They have ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and a recruitment ad campaign with the slogan: “It’s about respect and recognition from your peers. It’s you.”
They receive training in most weapons. According to a former St. Louis Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Training Instructor, the officers are trained on pistol, rifle, auto-rifle, sub-gun and shotgun with manufacturers encompassing Smith & Wesson, Glock, Remington and Armalite.
The FRLEOs employed by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. are considered employees of the Federal government since the Board is a government entity. Each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, as settled law under Lewis v. United States confirms, is a private corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. An email to several of the Federal Reserve Banks confirmed that they regard their FRLEOs to be privately employed by the bank.
The San Francisco Fed ran an ad for Captain Specialist, noting that “you will be charged with gathering and disseminating law enforcement intelligence information to the District.” It also noted that the individual would need to “obtain and maintain top secret clearance.” Typically, that clearance level is reserved for only the highest positions in the Federal government.
In addition to regular policing functions, the Federal Reserve police have been observed in airports with rifles, functioning as dignitary protection teams. Various recruitment ads confirm that this is sometimes part of the job.
Why should these institutions possess federal power? There is also the obvious question as to why the expense, training and potential liability of armed police would be necessary when all of the Federal Reserve Banks are in cities with large municipal police forces.
Because the Congress has paid no attention to such legal issues as the sovereignty of the U.S. government. Congress extended executive power to these private agencies because almost no one in Congress pays any attention to laws. The book title by retired California state senator W. H. “Bill” Richardson is accurate: What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?
When any institution’s agents legally carries badges and guns, it is an agency of civil government. So, the regional banks both are and are not government institutions. The Federal Reserve System is like no other institution.