Leon DeKalb: U.S. Probation’s First Black Officer

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Leon E. DeKalb’s family members pose with a photo of him during a 2016 ceremony honoring probation officers in the Southern District of New York

Leon Elmer DeKalb made history nearly 80 years ago when he became the first African American probation officer in the federal court system. He was appointed on Dec. 1, 1941, just before the United States entered World War II, and went on to a distinguished career in the Southern District of New York, where he rose to the position of deputy chief probation officer.

Officers in the Manhattan-based district and around the country are honoring DeKalb’s memory during February’s celebration of African American History Month.

“To be the first Black officer in the entire federal system couldn’t have been easy,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, chief probation officer for the Southern District of New York. “I’m sure he faced a great deal of resistance, but Mr. DeKalb overcame those challenges. He spent his career finding ways to help people struggling to successfully reenter society after prison and served as a role model to many of the officers here in New York Southern over the years.”

Leon E. DeKalb, as a young man. Photo courtesy of the Southern District of New York Probation Office.

DeKalb, who died in 1994, was a pioneer who had a profound influence on the federal probation system. He helped advance the notion that officers, in addition to their law enforcement roles, could help people struggling with drug and substance abuse. He was an instructor for the Federal Judicial Center, helping newly appointed judges understand the workings of the pretrial and probation system. He was on the board of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a research organization focused on making the justice system more equitable.

DeKalb is also remembered as an important mentor to young minority officers.

Yvonne Samuels, one of the first Black women to become a probation officer in the district, still remembers touring the courthouse with then Deputy Chief DeKalb on her first day of work in 1974.

“I was questioning my decision to leave my higher paying probation job for a career in federal probation, and speaking with Deputy Chief DeKalb reassured me that I made the right decision,” Samuels said. “He was a very kind person who cared deeply not only for his fellow officers, but for the offenders that we worked with. Although he never mentioned that I was Black, I could tell that he was especially interested in making sure that I and others who looked like me had the tools we needed to succeed.”

Born and raised in New York City, DeKalb graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree from Columbia University during the peak of the Great Depression.

Leon E. DeKalb, 1974. Photo courtesy of the Southern District of New York Probation Office.

At Lincoln University, he befriended Thurgood Marshall, the future first African American U.S. Supreme Court justice. Marshall was DeKalb’s mentor in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Before joining the probation office in the Southern District of New York, DeKalb was a New York City probation officer. He also spent time as teacher in Virginia and North Carolina and as an education advisor and welfare worker.

When war broke out, his career in probation was interrupted by two years of service in the Army, where he earned the rank of second lieutenant. In 1972, DeKalb achieved another historic first by becoming the first Black deputy chief probation officer in the federal system.

He retired after 33 years of distinguished service in 1974 and died on April 23, 1994, at the age of 86.

“Even at the age of 83, I can still remember Mr. DeKalb telling us, ‘Don’t give up. Keep trying,’ whenever things got tough for one of us in the office,” Samuels said. “We worked hard to build trust with the individuals we worked with. It was, and still is, important for them to feel comfortable confiding in us, so that we can better help them stay on the right path.”

Related Topics: Judicial History, Probation and Pretrial Services

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    The Indian Health Service's (IHS) policies related to provider misconduct and substandard performance outline several key aspects of oversight, such as protecting children against sexual abuse by providers, ethical and professional conduct, and processes for managing an alleged case of misconduct. Although the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or IHS headquarters have established most of these policies, area offices that are responsible for overseeing facility operations and facilities, such as hospitals, may develop and issue their own policies as long as they are consistent with headquarters' policies, according to officials. Although some oversight activities are performed at IHS headquarters, IHS has delegated primary responsibility for oversight of provider misconduct and substandard performance to the area offices. However, GAO found some inconsistencies in oversight activities across IHS areas and facilities. For example, Although all nine area offices require that new supervisors attend mandatory supervisory training, most area offices provided additional trainings related to provider misconduct and substandard performance. The content of these additional trainings varied across area offices. For example, three area offices offered training on conducting investigations of alleged misconduct, while other area offices did not. Officials from IHS headquarters told GAO they do not systematically review trainings developed by the areas to ensure they are consistent with policy or IHS-wide training. Facility governing boards—made up of IHS area office officials, including the Area Director, and facility officials, such as the Chief Executive Officer—are responsible for overseeing each facility's quality of and access to care. They generally review information related to provider misconduct and substandard performance. However, there is no standard format used by governing boards to document their review, making it difficult to determine the extent this oversight is consistently conducted. In some cases, there was no documentation by governing boards of a discussion about provider misconduct or substandard performance. For example, none of the seven governing board meeting minutes provided from one area office documented their discussion of patient complaints. In other cases, there was detailed documentation of the governing board's review. Additionally, governing boards did not always clearly document how or why an oversight decision, such as whether to grant privileges to a provider, had been made based on their review of available information. These inconsistencies in IHS's oversight activities could limit the agency's efforts to oversee provider misconduct and substandard performance. For example, by not reviewing trainings developed by area offices, IHS headquarters may also be unable to identify gaps in staff knowledge or best practices that could be applied across area offices. Addressing these inconsistencies would better position the agency to effectively protect patients from abuse and harm resulting from provider misconduct or substandard performance. IHS provides care to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) through a system of federally and tribally operated facilities. Recent cases of alleged and confirmed misconduct and substandard performance by IHS employees have raised questions about protecting the AI/AN population from abuse and harm. For example, in February 2020, a former IHS pediatrician was sentenced to five consecutive lifetime terms for multiple sex offenses against children. Several studies have been initiated or completed in response, and IHS has reported efforts to enhance safe and quality care for its patients. GAO was asked to review IHS oversight of misconduct and substandard performance. This report (1) describes IHS policies related to provider misconduct and substandard performance and (2) assesses IHS oversight of provider misconduct and substandard performance. GAO reviewed policies and documents, including minutes from 80 governing board meetings from January 2018 to December 2019. GAO also interviewed IHS officials from headquarters, all nine area offices with two or more federally operated facilities, and two federally operated facilities. GAO is making three recommendations, including that IHS should establish a process to review area office trainings as well as establish a standard approach for documenting governing board review of information. HHS concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or farbj@gao.gov.
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  • Crude Oil Markets: Effects of the Repeal of the Crude Oil Export Ban
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data and interviews with industry stakeholders shows that the repeal of the U.S. crude oil export ban is associated with increased crude oil exports—from less than half a million barrels per day in 2015 to almost 3 million barrels per day in 2019. The repeal of the ban expanded the market for U.S. crude oil to overseas buyers and, along with other market factors, allowed U.S. crude oil producers to charge higher prices relative to comparable foreign crude oil. Higher prices and an expanded market for U.S. crude oil further incentivized domestic crude oil production, which had been growing since the shale oil boom began around 2009 (see figure). During the period after the repeal, total U.S. imports of crude oil remained largely unchanged. Annual Production and Exports of U.S. Crude Oil, 2009-2019 GAO's analysis found limited effects associated with the repeal of the ban on the production, export, and import of domestic refined petroleum products, such as gasoline. However, profit margins—which are determined in part by the costs a refiner pays for the crude oil and the earnings a refiner receives from the sale of refined products—likely decreased as the prices refiners paid for domestic crude oil increased relative to international prices. Because gasoline prices are largely determined on the global market, U.S. refiners could not pass on to consumers the additional costs associated with the increase in crude oil prices, resulting in decreased profit margins for U.S. refiners. Finally, after the repeal of the crude oil export ban, the U.S. shipping industry experienced a decline as demand fell for U.S. tankers—known as Jones Act tankers—used to move domestic crude oil between U.S. ports. The increase in the relative price of domestic crude oils associated with the repeal of the export ban may have resulted in some U.S. refineries deciding to use more foreign crude oil. Foreign crude oil is typically transported by foreign tankers, reducing the demand for Jones Act tankers compared to what it would have been if the export ban had remained in place, according to six of the seven shipping industry stakeholders GAO interviewed. Between 1975 and the end of 2015, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act directed a ban on nearly all exports of U.S. crude oil. This ban was not considered a significant policy issue when U.S. oil production was declining and import volumes were increasing. However, U.S. crude oil production roughly doubled from 2009 to 2015, due in part to a boom in shale oil production made possible by advancements in drilling technologies. In December 2015, Congress effectively repealed the ban, allowing the free export of U.S. crude oil worldwide. GAO was asked to provide information on the effects of repealing the crude oil export ban. This report describes the effects of the repeal of the crude oil export ban on the domestic crude oil production, petroleum refining, and related sectors of the U.S. shipping industry. GAO analyzed data from EIA and other federal databases to determine the effects of repealing the export ban. GAO also interviewed a nongeneralizeable sample of economists, market analysts, and stakeholders from the oil and gas, refining, and shipping industries. GAO's analysis focused on the repeal of the crude oil export ban and any effects of the repeal on U.S. crude oil and related industries through March 2020. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Lands and Waters: Information on Agency Spending for Outdoor Recreation Is Limited
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The information that the seven federal agencies GAO reviewed have about their spending that supports outdoor recreation varies and is not intended to fully or precisely reflect all agency spending on recreation. The Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service identified budget lines related to outdoor recreation, although officials said this information may not accurately reflect the agencies' overall recreation spending. This is because some programs can support multiple purposes, so it can be difficult to determine how to divide a program's costs among its different purposes. For example, through its navigation program, the Army Corps of Engineers manages navigation locks, which benefit both commercial and recreational travel. The Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did not identify budget lines related to outdoor recreation. Examples of Outdoor Recreation Activities on Federal Lands and Waters Some agencies in our review provided spending information, while others provided funding information. The Army Corps of Engineers and Forest Service provided spending (expenditure) information, and BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service provided funding (allotment) information. Funding represents amounts available to the agencies at a particular time but not necessarily actual spending. The Army Corps of Engineers' annual spending for its recreation program budget line averaged about $292 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Forest Service's annual spending for its budget lines that it identified as supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $225 million for fiscal years 2014 through 2019. BLM's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $77 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Fish and Wildlife Service's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $1.3 billion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The National Park Service's annual funding for its budget lines that it identified as primarily supporting outdoor recreation averaged about $1.5 billion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies provide outdoor recreation opportunities and facilities on the hundreds of millions acres of lands and waters they manage, attracting hundreds of millions of visitors annually. These agencies include the seven that comprised the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation: the Army Corps of Engineers, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, and NOAA. However, federal agencies are not required to track spending for outdoor recreation, and it is unclear how much federal funding is spent, through various programs, on recreation. The joint explanatory statement accompanying the Department of the Interior's fiscal year 2020 appropriation included a provision for GAO to conduct a study that identifies programs carried out by federal agencies that directly impact the outdoor recreation sector and that presents federal spending information for these programs. This report provides available information on what selected federal agencies know about their outdoor recreation spending. GAO focused on the seven council member agencies; reviewed available data and documents on agency spending or funding that supports outdoor recreation; and interviewed agency officials to understand how, if at all, each agency identified its spending that supports outdoor recreation. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3841 or andersonn@gao.gov.
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  • Puerto Rico: Perspectives on the Potential to Expand Air Cargo Operations
    In U.S GAO News
    Cargo was flown by air between more than 97 countries within the selected regions of Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. that may affect air cargo expansion in Puerto Rico. However, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) and European Union data, most international air cargo transportation was concentrated at a handful of countries and at airports in these regions. For example, four countries in Europe accounted for 72 percent of the U.S.-European Union air cargo transported, by weight. Likewise for airports, Miami International Airport accounted for 70 percent of air cargo transported between the U.S. and Latin America. Worldwide, cargo-only carriers transported on average 13.8 billion pounds of air cargo to and from the U.S. from 2016 through 2018. Of that cargo, two of the selected regions—Latin America and Europe—when combined accounted for 46 percent. Air Cargo Transported by Cargo-Only Airlines between the U.S. and Global Regions, Average Weight in Millions of Pounds, 2016 through 2018 Based on interviews with industry stakeholders and studies reviewed. GAO identified four factors that are generally associated with an airport's ability to attract air cargo traffic: (1) an airport's geographical location; (2) its proximity to transportation networks; (3) its supporting airport infrastructure and resources; and (4) the governmental and regulatory environments. For example, an airport located near businesses that generate large volumes of both inbound and outbound cargo that could be transported by air may be an important geographic factor for air carriers. Puerto Rican government and industry stakeholders GAO spoke with said that increased air cargo would benefit its airports and lead to positive effects on the Puerto Rican economy. For example, officials noted that expansion of air cargo operations could increase the use of underutilized airports and create opportunities for existing industry—such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, and aerospace industries—and help develop new ones. Puerto Rican and industry stakeholders had varying perspectives on the potential for Puerto Rico's expanding its air cargo operations. For example, some stakeholders said Puerto Rico's geographic location may allow it to serve as a refueling and cargo distribution point, particularly for flights between Europe and Latin America, while others said the island may be too close to some Latin American destinations to serve that purpose. Whether and to what extent Puerto Rico can increase air cargo operations depends on how air carriers weigh the various factors discussed above. Puerto Rico's economy has been in decline for much of the last 15 years and was devastated by hurricanes in 2017. Puerto Rico has sought to increase air cargo and passenger traffic at its international airports as a means to bolster and diversify its economy. Specifically, Puerto Rico seeks to serve as a transshipment point for transferring cargo between air carriers flying from Europe to Latin America. Air cargo, whether carried in the holds of passenger aircraft or by cargo-only aircraft, is an important component of global trade. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a provision for GAO to study the international air cargo transportation services among the United States and the African, Latin American, and European regions and the potential expansion of air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. This report addresses (1) what is known about air cargo operations between these world regions; (2) factors affecting the development of air cargo markets; and (3) Puerto Rican officials' and selected industry stakeholders' views on the economic effect and potential of expanding air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. GAO analyzed DOT and European air cargo data for flights between the U.S. and the selected regions for 2016 through 2018 (the latest available data). GAO also interviewed officials from DOT, and stakeholders from Puerto Rico and the air-cargo industry, selected based on prior GAO work and stakeholder mission. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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