LAKE PLACID - The U.S. and Canada will each designate officers who can work investigations on both sides of the border in a new pilot project next year, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.
Holder told a group of federal prosecutors and district attorneys from northern border districts that the initiative stems from broad agreement earlier this year by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cooperate more on law enforcement.
Calling the threats on both sides of the 5,500-mile border "unprecedented," Holder said shared information and joint efforts have led to millions of dollars in drugs and assets seized, gang operations disrupted and extraditions of suspected smugglers and violent criminals.
"As you discussed earlier today, the creation of 'NextGen' teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime," Holder said. It would also reduce duplication of effort, he said.
Richard Hartunian, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, said there are already some cross-designated U.S. and Canadian officers on boats patrolling waterways between the two countries: "It's the same idea. Work together. Operate across the border together. And respect the sovereignty of each nation. That's the challenge. We all have different concerns and different laws that apply in different situations."
Details of the pilot program, including precisely where and when it will begin, were not disclosed during the meeting in Lake Placid.
Holder said senior officials from the U.S. Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have been meeting since December with counterparts from Public Safety Canada and Justice Canada on how to proceed. He promised it won't jeopardize citizens' privacy rights.