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OIG Law Enforcement Authority

Congress granted DOT-OIG Federal law enforcement authority when it passed the Inspector General Act of 1978.

Our Special Agents have the Federal law enforcement authority to conduct criminal investigations—including the authority to make arrests, obtain and execute search warrants, and carry firearms.

Our investigative function maintains rigorous training and operational standards.

Like other Federal law enforcement agencies, DOT-OIG exercises its authority in accordance with U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security Act requirements and guidelines, particularly regarding:

  • Training. Our Special Agents are subject to rigorous law enforcement training. They are required to complete a standard criminal investigator training program, advanced training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and quarterly firearms training and qualification.
  • Use of Force. DOT-OIG’s policy addresses all types of use of force situations that may arise during our investigations. Our Special Agents are trained quarterly on use of force.
  • External Peer Reviews. DOT-OIG’s investigative function is subject to external peer review at least once every 3 years to ensure that we maintain adequate internal safeguards and management procedures.

Our Federal law enforcement authority—especially the authority to seek and execute search warrants—enables us to achieve impressive investigative outcomes.

On average, Special Agents execute between 50 and 100 search warrants a year. Use of search warrants increases the likelihood of successful prosecution of our cases by over 50 percent and our financial return on investment to taxpayers by about 1,500 percent.

As documented in our Semiannual Reports to Congress, our Federal law enforcement authority helps us achieve impressive results. The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), DOJ, and U.S. Attorneys Offices across the country have recognized our robust criminal investigative program for its effectiveness in fighting fraud in DOT’s programs and operations. In particular, we have an outstanding record of investigating fraud and other violations in the transportation industry—including suspected unapproved parts fraud (such as counterfeit aircraft parts and air bags), the illegal operation of unmanned aircraft systems, and pipeline and hazardous materials violations. We also investigate grant and procurement fraud—including bid rigging, kickbacks, and violations of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, working closely with DOT to ensure DBE program integrity.

Federal law enforcement authority helps keep DOT-OIG Special Agents safe.

Our Special Agents are frequently exposed to dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations while conducting criminal investigations. At times, they must conduct their investigations under dangerous conditions, such as at night and in high crime areas. Of course, even a seemingly routine action has the potential to turn into a dangerous or deadly situation.

Executing arrest and search warrants can be especially dangerous, and our Special Agents have discovered such weapons as assault rifles, shotguns, handguns, and homemade, undetonated improvised explosive devices.

DOT-OIG’s Federal law enforcement authority has facilitated a strong working relationship with our law enforcement partners and allows our Special Agents to assist during national crises.

Our Special Agents often partner with other law enforcement agencies to conduct joint investigations across the country and provide considerable transportation expertise. They have also supplemented law enforcement efforts during high-risk events such as presidential inaugurations and in times of national emergency, such as Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Henri (2021).