I received the letter that I’ve published below about a week ago. It came to me from a very reliable source. The letter itself was an attachment to an email announcing the ATF agent’s resignation. I received that original email as well. After having done a little research, I am confident that this letter and the email it was attached to are genuine. That is why I’ve decided to publish it today.
Given the obvious politicization of federal law enforcement under the Biden Administration (as exemplified by the unprecedented FBI raid on the home of President Donald Trump), I think you will find this agent’s inside view of ATF to be both enlightening and disturbing. Other than providing definitions of acronyms in parentheses where appropriate, the letter below is published in its entirety and without changes of any kind.
I am aware that I run the risk of sounding like I have an inflated sense of the value that I bring to ATF. I do not. I know that I am just a guy, and I am someone that will be replaced the moment I turn in my stuff. Just to save everyone time, I will tell you that I am not resigning “in lieu of termination” and there is no scandal that resulted in my resignation. I have just reached the point where I cannot, in good faith, support the direction this government is taking our country; specifically, the direction it is taking law enforcement.
Over the past almost 18 years with ATF, I have worked in 4 different states and 5 different cities. I have had at least 9 different supervisors and regularly received outstanding evaluations from all of them. I am not a guy that bucks the system or causes problems or brings others down. I am just a guy that works hard and asks questions and wants to know the “why” behind everything. I challenge others to simply do their very best, all the time, and expect them to challenge me to do the same. But like most cops, I am also a guy that needs his job to be more than a paycheck. I never did this job because it was “fun”, I did this job because it is necessary…and purposeful. There are very few of us that are willing to do it. I have always said that I do this job for the mission, not the money. That mission used to be locking up violent criminals. I don’t know what the mission really is anymore, but I don’t like it. For the past couple of years, I have found myself asking “why” a lot more often. As of late, the answer is typically because “they” said so. I still don’t know who “they” are. But I seem to disagree with whoever “they” are on pretty much everything.
It is getting more difficult, but I am still an optimist and I pray that someone, somewhere at the top, pays attention and my resignation may somehow bring the support for law enforcement back to the people in the trenches. The people that could actually die doing this job, the street level agents, Task Force Officers and street cops. I am not trying to speak on behalf of all agents and law enforcement personnel across the country. I can only speak to what I know is happening in areas I am familiar with. It seems like parts of the country may be perfectly content with the way things are going. I don’t like referring to “red” or “blue” states, but at a minimum, I would suspect agents and officers in “blue” states are not happy. We are a federal agency and so is the USAO (United States Attorney’s Office), if AUSAs (Assistant U. S. Attorneys) in certain parts of the country are prosecuting various ATF type crimes, shouldn’t the entire country see similar results? Why do federal prosecutions vary from state to state? We as agents are required to set aside our personal and political opinions and do our job. Why does that same standard not apply to the entire Department of Justice? I know there will be many that disagree with my take on things and that is just fine. We should be allowed to have different opinions; but I know there are others out there struggling with the same feelings I am struggling with, and I pray they find purpose and rejuvenation for the job.
Despite the email inundation, I did not submit my Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) because I think the questions are extremely vague. Vagueness leads to misunderstandings and misrepresentations. If you want the truth, be specific. We are investigators, for us, the truth is in the details. If you are implying the survey is in reference to certain people, include their name on it. Most field agents, especially younger ones, have no clue who makes up our “senior leadership”. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know who all of them are either because most of them have no impact on my daily job. If you don’t include the name, we don’t know exactly who you are talking about. And you won’t know who we are talking about. In a survey, there should be no room for interpretation. Unless of course, you want to manipulate the data. I would be curious to know how the rest of the country feels about the Attorney General, their respective U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and DOJ as a whole. I think you would probably find that law enforcement officers in a number of states feel like the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the woke left are not only running the entire country but are decimating cities and police departments. You may also find that in certain areas, agents think ATF is folding to the pressures of the left. I doubt those questions will be asked because I don’t trust that you really want to know why morale is low. You look for a scapegoat, like COVID. But that is not why. I am confident that the agents and officers regularly working violent crime and going toe-to-toe with the most violent criminals on the street are not worried about dying from COVID or if everyone is vaccinated or wearing a mask or if they can telework. If you want the field to take the survey seriously, then you need to take the survey seriously.
The last time morale was this low with ATF was probably 2013-2016. Coincidentally, that was also the last time we had an administration openly criticize law enforcement. Both administrations preached diversity, or rather “celebrate” it, but then expect everyone to have the same liberal opinion. I don’t know anyone in law enforcement that wants to be “celebrated”. But people in law enforcement do need to know they are supported. We are all cops; race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or political affiliation don’t matter to us when we are all working together to fight the evil that is out there. The government is creating this issue. The government is dividing us. This job is not about us as individuals, it is about helping the people and protecting them from the predators.
I have always loved the mentality of law enforcement officers. No matter their political affiliation they stand for law and order. They stand for what is good. They stand for what is right. This is the fourth administration I have worked under. I have never seen the country more divided than it is right now. We are becoming a country that focuses on extremes and all the good people in the middle are the ones suffering. Instead of being a rational voice, the government is only adding fuel to the fire. I don’t feel like our leadership is fighting for the agents, or for police in general. They seem to be going along with the attitude of the current administration. I get it, they don’t want to push back and risk losing their position, or title. But we are allowing people that have never done this job to dictate how we do this job. Why are we so afraid of educating politicians with the truth?
Our agency talks a lot about developing real “leaders”. If our leaders are afraid, or unwilling, to fight back against things they know are wrong, maybe they are not leaders. “Because they said so” or “Because I said so” should never be an acceptable answer for a leader and those phrases are never used by a real leader. A long time ago, when I was a brand-new patrol officer in Albuquerque, my training officer told me “If you have to say the words ‘I’m in charge’, then you are not in charge”. Our government tends to punish, shame or pressure employees into compliance rather than motivate. If employees (especially those in law enforcement) are motivated, and know they are supported, they will work their tails off. Money is not the motivating factor for law enforcement officers. Sure, we have bills to pay, and we should be able to live a comfortable lifestyle, but we need to serve a mission greater than ourselves, and we need to feel like what we do may actually make a difference.
I feel like what I am being told and what I see happening are contradictory. In a meeting not too long ago, the Deputy Director told us that ATF is not aligning with either political party (which is the way it should be. But also intriguing to me that he felt the need to emphasize it), however, ATF’s recent actions sure seem to align with the left. Over the last couple of years, ATF has been spending a significant amount of time talking about and changing the course of this agency to focus on “the gun”. Frankly, I don’t really care about investigating the gun, I care about investigating the criminal, and then plucking that criminal out of society. Last year, HQ spent pretty much the entire year, talking about the “vaccine” and threatening termination for those who wouldn’t get it. Why should anyone, let alone the government, care who does and does not get vaccinated. Yet, the Deputy Director threatened to prosecute the agents for “lying to a federal agent” if we did not appropriately update our vaccination status in the system. Seems a bit extreme. I have never even threatened a criminal with that charge. The push was clearly political, and I wanted no part of it. ATF didn’t fight for the rights of the agents. They allowed the government to treat those that fought back like they were lepers. Then they tasked attorney’s with determining if agents were religious enough to opt out. Does it really matter? They didn’t want the shot. That should have been the end of it. But then there was a second assault from the attorneys, but this time the level of questioning essentially mocked one’s faith. They knew they had no legal grounds, so they used the leftist tactics of shaming, excluding, and threatening into compliance. There is no telling how many agents got vaccinated for the sole purpose of keeping their job and their pension. The government’s tactic had no teeth and overnight it all just went away. They acted like it never happened. Another liberal tactic. But it was worth it right? ATF got a bigger budget out of it. A budget that will be used to focus on “the gun”. ATF catered to an administration that has made it clear that they don’t like guns and they don’t like the police. Money isn’t free, no matter what this administration says.
Did our leaders forget that ATF agents are law enforcement? Most agents are pro-gun. All agents should be anti-criminal. We did not become ATF agents so we could collect data, ensure firearms are in compliance, seize trigger groups, argue about what a firearm is or is not, seize firearms for reasons other than prosecuting criminals, or spend countless hours inputting data to justify someone else’s existence in HQ. We became ATF agents so we could work the streets and smack evil in the mouth. We took this job because we are willing to risk it all and hope that we can make the streets just a little bit safer for the law abiding, upstanding citizens of the USA. At least that’s why I became an ATF agent.
Deep down, I can’t imagine that our ATF leadership agrees with this administration’s approach to policing or their treatment of law enforcement personnel. Nobody in law enforcement can agree with this administration and still believe in the mission of police work. It is not social work; it is police work. This cannot be the future of law enforcement if we truly care about our country and the well-being of its citizens. For at least the last decade, the government has focused on holding police accountable. I agree, we do need to be held accountable. But everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions, not just police. Who is holding the criminal accountable? Who’s holding the politicians accountable?
As a first line supervisor, I consistently see agents and officers second guessing themselves before and after the use of force. It is not their fault. I have been in several uses of force, and they were all deemed “reasonable”. I truly believe that after force is used by ATF agents, we really are supported by ATF. The problem is most law enforcement leaders are afraid to vocalize the fact that using force against criminals is simply part of the job. But why? We can no longer say that because we have stopped fighting back, we have stopped standing up for ourselves and now we are owned by the woke left. Words don’t stop violence. Only violence stops violence. That is just the way it is. That is also why this job is not for everyone. Violence is the only language these violent criminals understand. If you have not experienced that type of evil on the streets or while conducting your investigations, you are investigating the wrong people. They are out there, and they will kill you without thinking twice. Yet recently, the government only seems to advertise fighting back against the right. Why don’t we advertise fighting back against all criminals? I think it’s because even good ol’ fashioned conservative folks agree that there are consequences for breaking the law. So, nobody complains about it. Which makes it easy. Since most moderate conservatives tend to appreciate law enforcement, the far-right lacks support; therefore, the right cannot “cancel” you. The extreme left however, that is more difficult. They clearly have an anti-law enforcement view and even non “progressive” liberals openly share their discontent for law enforcement. So, we just play along and act like what the left is doing is not evil. I feel like we have taken on the mentality of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. I will not join them.
If our leaders are unwilling to educate politicians as to why their policies are flawed or that it is impossible to rationalize with irrational people (i.e., de-escalation) or that their naivety makes them sound completely ignorant, how will they ever know? Or…. they do know, they don’t care, and our job no longer matters.
This administration talks a lot about guns in the same sentence they talk about violent crime; however, they say nothing about holding people accountable for the crimes they commit (unless it supports their agenda). I agree that gun crime is out of control. But I also know there is a double standard that is being ignored. When horrible tragedies occur with firearms, the left seizes every opportunity to argue for gun control and the elimination of certain types of weapon systems. However, specifically in blue states, fewer and fewer defendants associated with gun crimes are actually sentenced to prison. Additionally, violent crimes committed with firearms are consistently pled down to non-violent crimes and the defendant again avoids prison. This is not unique to state prosecutors, the USAO does the same thing. If there is no consequence to committing a crime, then why would a criminal stop? If guns were banned, why would the criminals actually agree to abide by the law?
We can probably agree that law abiding citizens do not commit gun crime. I think that we can probably also agree that the majority of gun owners tend to be more conservative than liberal. So essentially, gun control will only affect law abiding, conservative citizens. Therefore, the government is only punishing the conservative population. Similarly, in the summer of 2020, rioters were allowed to burn cities, assault the police, and terrorize citizens with little to no consequence. However, the chaos associated with January 6 has resulted in hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions. The vast majority of the defendants have been convicted of simply being there. They didn’t even have pallets of bricks or frozen water bottles staged at the scene, let alone Molotov cocktails for them to throw at the police. Still, 18 months later, the left continues to be absolutely obsessed with it.
While typing this I see that President Biden is completely distraught that Capitol Police officers suffered through “medieval hell” on January 6th and, of course, it is all Trump’s fault. He continues to say you can’t be “pro-insurrection and pro-cop”. Like the definition of “vaccine”, has this administration also changed the definition of “hypocrisy”? Where was the support of law enforcement from the Democratic party during the presidential campaign? For at least the past 10 years, the Democratic party and the DOJ Civil Rights Division has consistently justified criminal behavior, advocated for decriminalization, and scrutinized the officer’s actions when an officer was assaulted. That is the equivalent of asking a domestic violence victim what they did to cause their spouse to beat them up.
Wasn’t there an officer involved shooting on January 6? We sure didn’t hear much about it until the left decided he was a hero. I’m not suggesting it was a bad shoot at all, I will always give the officer the benefit of the doubt in a shooting. However, I am suggesting, if it was a different crowd of rioters, the officer might be in prison right now. At a minimum, the liberal media would have ruined his career and the officer would have been unemployable…effectively, canceled. If you think I am wrong, you are not in law enforcement, or at least not real law enforcement. Cops know I am right. Yet, this is the side that our leadership has decided to please. DOJ is clearly the driving force behind this double standard. I thought they were all about equal treatment?
I am sure I don’t have all the facts, but where would we get them anyway? There is no media source I trust and there is no Congressional hearing that is not a complete sham. Depending on the witness, they are either coddled or insulted. Politicians no longer (or maybe never) care about the truth, they only care about public opinion. Why do we, as law enforcement, try to play that game? Police will never deal with the majority of the population, and the majority of the population will always support the police. Of those we deal with, most of them will dislike us, and some of them will love us. Why can’t we just leave it at that? When we try to appease the percentage of the population that will always hate us (because they are criminals), everyone loses.
I think our job as Special Agents is relatively simple. We need to target, catch, and submit a solid case that results in violent criminals going to prison. I know there are other agent jobs that have different roles, but as a whole, we need to put people in prison. ATF says NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistic Information Network) identifies the “trigger pullers”. I say NIBIN identifies a gun that was used in a shooting. Police work identifies “trigger pullers”. My experience, and I would assume the experience of agents elsewhere, indicates that prosecutors no longer view circumstantial evidence as real evidence. It seems to me like they view it as reasonable doubt. Through the emphasis on NIBIN, I think ATF is headed in a direction that will generate cases with more circumstantial evidence. Nowadays, at least in Colorado, it takes a very special prosecutor to take on a case with circumstantial evidence. Then a special judge and jury to convict. If we already know that prosecutors no longer view circumstantial evidence as real evidence, then why are we trying to give them more stuff they won’t use. NIBIN should simply be a tool, if we continue to move our agency in a direction that relies so heavily on NIBIN, we will turn into data collectors and investigators that rarely prosecute anyone. That’s not what I signed up for.
This year alone, our office has had more violent federal defendants released following their detention hearing than I have seen in my entire career. That is saying something because I have never had to fight so hard just to get violent offenders prosecuted. So not only are we prosecuting fewer defendants (and pleading down charges to nothing so prosecutors can avoid the courtroom), but they are also being released. Am I wrong to think that the system is completely broken when the outcome of an investigation depends on the draw of the AUSA (Assistant U. S. Attorney) and the Magistrate? Could you imagine if the tables were turned? We would be fired or indicted. Especially in the past two years, it seems like jails and prisons can’t let people out fast enough. I wonder why violent crime is up. We really need to do something about those guns though, right?
I stand firm that guns are not the problem. The problem is that we don’t hold criminals accountable for their actions anymore. I have spent the majority of my career working violent crime. I learned a long time ago that you do not combat violent crime by seizing firearms; you combat violent crime by locking up violent criminals for a really long time. Not just a really long time on paper, a long time behind actual prison bars; like we used to do it before legislators and members of the judicial system decided to neglect their oath.
I hear people say that the pendulum will swing back like it always does. Historically, it has swung back due to public opinion and the public realizing that being a victim is not as fun as the left made it out to be. Now, the difference this time is that the pendulum swung left and is now locked there through laws and policies. In almost 20 years of law enforcement, I have never seen a policy decision that made policing less restrictive. All policy decisions restrict what agents and officers are allowed to do. This kinder, gentler, softer way of policing is now the new normal.
Like I mentioned previously, agents will work their tails off under the appropriate conditions. The agents, TFOs (Task Force Officers), and support staff assigned to the Colorado Springs Field Office absolutely work their tails off. They have done more than I could ever ask of them. It is the people like them that make me so proud to have been an ATF agent. But when prosecution comes down to the roll of the dice, I am no longer willing to subject these guys to the situations I have previously subjected them to. They are far too valuable, and I care about them too much. I’m sure there are other ways to do this job that doesn’t require us to get our hands dirty or look a criminal in the face and see the defeat in his eyes when he knows we caught him red handed. But those ways are not for me. I believe in God, I believe in The Constitution, and I believe that bad guys belong in prison. The Government no longer believes in any of those things. Since I can no longer do this job the way I think it needs to be done and have the appropriate level of success, then it is time for me to fight this fight from a different angle.
I will always fight for good, and I will always fight for law enforcement.
Thank you, ATF, be safe and God bless,