At the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Training Academy in Virginia last year, a firing range instructor called out a name that was shared by two trainees, one Black and one white. When both responded, the white instructor clarified, “I meant the monkey.” That behavior didn’t stop there, the Associated Press reports. The instructor also was accused of going on the loudspeaker in the tower of the outdoor firing range to taunt black trainees by making “monkey noises.” “We were like, ‘It’s 2019. That shouldn’t even be a thing that we’re dealing with,’” said Derek Moise, who did not hear the noises but recalled the discomfort they caused his fellow Black trainees who did. “Everybody knows what those sounds and noises stand for.”
As the DEA continues a decades-long struggle to diversify its ranks, it has received a string of complaints describing a culture of racial discrimination at its training academy in which minorities are singled out, derided with insults and consistently held to a higher standard than their white counterparts. In one case, a Black recruit was told his skin color made him a surefire candidate for undercover work. In another, a Hispanic woman, chatting in Spanish with a fellow trainee, was admonished to “speak English, you are in the United States.” At least two of the complaints prompted internal DEA investigations, one of which remains ongoing. The complaints offer a rare window into the frustration minorities have voiced about their treatment at DEA since the filing of a 1977 civil rights lawsuit that remains unresolved despite a series of court orders governing the agency’s hiring and promotion practices. Like other federal law enforcement agencies, DEA has struggled to fill its ranks with minorities. Of the 4,400 agents, just eight percent are Black and 10 percent are Hispanic.