Federal Policing Needs Reform Too
The killing by Minneapolis police officers of George Floyd, and rage over similar deaths elsewhere, is fueling protests against brutal police tactics and the disproportionate use of such tactics against racial minorities. But most of that anger is targeted at traditional cop shops, potentially letting other law-enforcement agencies escape overdue scrutiny. The ominous appearance this month of federal law enforcement agents at Washington, D.C. demonstrations was a timely reminder that governments in this country employ a lot of enforcers, and we should be concerned about all of them.
“Few sights from the nation’s protests in recent days have seemed more dystopian than the appearance of rows of heavily-armed riot police around Washington in drab military-style uniforms with no insignia, identifying emblems or name badges,” Politico noted on June 5. The federal cops were apparently drawn from multiple agencies including the Bureau of Prisons, but they all work in one capacity or another for the federal government as part of its growing army of enforcers.
“To put it another way,” Politico added, “Every year since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has added to its policing ranks a force larger than the entire Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
Those ranks are pretty deep. “As of the end of fiscal-year 2016, federal agencies in the United States and U.S. territories employed about 132,000 full-time law enforcement officers,” according to a 2019 tally by the Office of Justice Programs. That number does not include any classified or military personnel, only officers openly employed by civilian agencies including the ATF, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Park Service, and even the Smithsonian Institution.
Politico‘s description of the federal government hiring an ATF-worth of new enforcers every year isn’t encouraging, given that the agency is a hot, steaming mess when it comes to abuses. Eight years ago, after the ATF was caught running guns to Mexican criminal gangs, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that “failures within ATF, which included a long term strategy in Operation Fast and Furious that was fully supported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, were systemic and not due to the acts of only a few individuals.”
A year later, in 2013, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on “a botched ATF sting in Milwaukee—that included agents hiring a brain-damaged man to promote an undercover storefront and the
Article from Latest – Reason.com