The Green Police: Criminal Enforcement in the Era of Climate Change

Date01 July 2022
AuthorJoshua Ozymy, Melissa Jarrell Ozymy
by Joshua Ozymy and Melissa Jarrell Ozymy
Dr. Joshua Ozymy is Associate Professor of Political Science, at University of Tennessee at
Chattanooga. Dr. Melissa L. Jarrell Ozymy is Department Head, Social, Cultural & Justice
Studies and Professor of Criminal Justice, at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
I. Resources for Deterrence
Perhaps the greatest problem facing the expansion of envi-
ronmental enforcement is that of resources. e work of
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Crim-
inal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) is a dicult one,
which requires investigation, coordination, and follow-
through. Yet, both EPA and CID face increasing respon-
sibilities alongside dwindling resources.1 At present, there
are less than 200 cr iminal investigators deployed across the
country to investigate environmental crime s. In 2012, EPA
employed only 175 agents, but this has diminished over
time to 154 in 2015 and now it currently stands at 145
agents.2 Strewn across some 40 locations in t he United States
and expected to investigate complex crimes in overlapping
jurisdictions, this is simply well-short of what is needed to
eectively police environmental crimes. Moreover, while
numbers were high after 9/11, many enforcement sta were
added and charged with ta king on investigative responsi-
bilities tangentially related to homeland security, rather
than environmental crimes exclusively.3
For EPA-CID to be eective and for it to extend its reach,
consider the investment in environmental law enforcement
1. U.S. EPA, C E P O 8-11 (EPA 310-
K-11-001) (Oct. 2011),
2. PEER, EPA CID Agent Count,
pdf (Nov. 21, 2019).
3. See PEER, 2003 S  EPA O  C E,
F  T E 2-3 (2003),
versus traditional law enforcement in the United States.
In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Census estimated the coun-
try’s population at 328,239,523.4 e Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s (FBI’s) Uniform Crime Reporting Program
notes that nationwide the rate of sworn law enforcement
ocers was 2.4 per 1,000 inhabitants and 3.4 per 1,000
inhabitants when considering sworn and civilia n ocers.5
Raw numbers equate to more than 680,000 law enforce-
ment ocers and almost one million total law enforcement
employees. is comparison would have to include the
number of criminal enforcement agents across the states
and in limited cases local government for comparison,
which would be extremely tough to come by.
As another point of comparison, the Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) notes that in 2016 there were 100,000 full-
time federal law enforcement ocers in the United States
and its territories with about two-thirds deployed to Cus-
toms and Border Protection, the Federal Bureau of Prisons,
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Immi-
gration and Customs Enforcement; 47% worked in the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security.6 Looking at this
as a trend between federal a gencies, in 2008, EPA-CID
employed 183 agents and that declined to 157 by 2016.
Based on BJS data, numbers are slightly dierent—EPA-
CID agents increased from 202 to 214.
During the same period, other federal agencies faced
declines while some sectors saw sharp increa ses. e
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin istration
(NOAA) Oce of Law Enforcement decreased 18.2%
from 154 to 126 full-time ocers, the U.S. Forest Ser-
vice declined more than 20% from 648 to 514, and the
National Nuclear Security Adm inistration dropped almost
4. Press Release, U.S. Census, 2019 U.S. Population Estimates Continue to
Show the Nation’s Growth Is Slowing, Dec. 30, 2019, https://www.census.
5. FBI, Crime in the United States (2018),
u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/topic-pages/police-employee-data (last
visited May 11, 2022).
6. BJS, F L E O, 2016—S T
(Oct. 2019),eo16st.pdf.
Editors’ Note: This Comment is adapted from Chapter 7
in Joshua Ozymy & Melissa Jarrell Ozymy, Toxic Intent:
Environmental Harm, Corporate Crime, and the Criminal
Enforcement of Federal Environmental Laws in the United
States (ELI Press forthcoming 2022).
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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