ATF gets Black Eye for Abusive Conduct on Alaskan Highway

ATF Alaskan Vehicle Abuse of Athourity

On 19 May, 2016, a member of the ATF, or at least someone driving one of their vehicles at a time that it was supposed to be in service, may have engaged in abusive behavior on the Glenn Highway in Alaska. From ktuu.com . . .

Police say that at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a driver on the Glenn Highway said he pulled over for an unmarked white Ford SUV. The SUV flashed red and blue interior dash lights.

When the motorist stopped, police wrote that the driver, “sped past him, laughed, and flipped him the middle finger.”

The man called 911, and told police that he watched as the SUV did the same thing three other times with other drivers.

At the time that the incident was reported, the police checked the license plate of the vehicle, but could not find a match. Four days later, investigation revealed that the vehicle was an unmarked  vehicle registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, (ATF).

The vehicle was not in the Department of Motor Vehicles data base. It was an unmarked ATF vehicle whose official existence is shielded from ordinary police view. This was discovered by a computer search though thousands of police reports. It happened that the ATF vehicle was at the scene of another investigation, and an investigating officer had noted the vehicle plate number in their report.

The person in the ATF vehicle had good reason to believe that they were immune from accountability in this case. A few years ago, they would have escaped without consequences. From adn.com:

Police contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, a U.S. Justice Department agency, which confirmed that the SUV was theirs, Castro said.

The person driving the ATF owned Ford SUV has not been identified. Initial reports describe the driver as a white male in their 30s with short hair. ATF has a policy not to “comment on personnel matters”.

This is not a mere “personnel matter.” If the allegations are true, this is an abuse of authority. It is a blatant violation of law. It is a deprivation of rights under color of law. If it occured as alleged, it should be easy to ascertain the truth, and the ATF official should not be allowed to be shielded by the agency.

Using police lights to pull someone over without cause is depriving them of their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. It is hard to believe, given the description of events, that the person in the vehicle had a legitimate reason to pull the vehicles over.  The abusive finger salute adds to the impression that this was a simple abuse of authority under the color of law.

It was a minor abuse. Damages under 42 U.S.C.  § 1983 would likely be small. It is roughly the equivalent of the abuse of police officers using lights and sirens to go on a pizza run; or using their police identification to push to the head of a line for personal reasons. But it is exactly these sort of abuses that are very damaging to the rule of law. Citizens see the abuses. They see that nothing is done to correct them, and they conclude that officers consider themselves a special class, above the ordinary rules of society and the law.

Such abuses make the allegations in more serious cases, such a the Fast and Furious gun running case, all the more believable. In that case, it is alleged that the Department of Justice conspired with the ATF to facilitate the illegal transfer of firearms to Mexican drug cartels, for the purpose of pushing the Obama Administration’s policies on gun control.

Digital recording devices make these abuses of authority under color of law much easier to prove. At least two appellate courts have ruled that it is a First Amendment right to video/audio record public officials in the course of the public execution of their duties.  A U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania has refused to recognize recording as a First Amendment right, when there is no intention of criticising the police; that case is being appealed to the Third Circuit.

The case would not apply to those who record police with an intention to criticise their actions.

Criticism of police is at an all time high under the Obama administration. Many of the criticisms have not been justified by later investigations, such as in the Trevon Martin case or the Ferguson shooting case of Michael Brown.

That does not mean that abuses do not occur. It makes the case that recordings of altercations can help to absolve the innocent as well as convict the guilty. The ubiquity of digital recording devises is helping to make all authorities more accountable for their actions.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Link to Gun Watch

comments

  1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    Respect my authoritah!

  2. avatar jwm says:

    I’m willing to bet the vehicle was assigned to an ATF agent and then his kid got it and went for a joy ride. The actions sounds too juvenile for anyone over 30.

    I thought those .gov vehicles have gps locaters in them? Should be easy enough to trace the path of said vehicle including the stops on the side of the high way.

    1. avatar John L. says:

      I won’t take that bet. I’ve known too many notionally grown men.

      And even if it was, the agent’s still at fault for letting the kid have access. Or if the kid just took it, then the kid should go away for grand theft.

      Want to place a wager on any of that happening?

    2. avatar notalima says:

      “The actions sounds too juvenile for anyone over 30”

      jwm, if that is your experience, you’ve been blessed. Put aside 30, the number of chuckle-heads I’ve had to deal with in their 40s and 50s (who were doing ‘juvenile’ stupid stuff) is something that makes me happy to be retired.

    3. avatar Frank in VA says:

      “The actions sounds too juvenile for anyone over 30”

      Unless the ATF guy was from Wasilla. Haha. People can get a little nuts up there in winter from boredom and lack of sunlight. I used to commute down the Glen Highway every day from Eagle River to Anchorage and saw some crazy shit on that drive.

      1. avatar SteveO says:

        One should have turned around and gone to Sutton or Chickaloon to escape. Then it would have just been bears, wolves and the occasional moose. Oh, and if you had to change a flat with mama bear and Cubs nearby, then yes, crazy shit, like in thy pants.

        1. avatar Frank in VA says:

          Yeah, I would have stayed in my truck. I don’t do bears. We had a wolf pack not too far from where I lived in Eagle River back then. I used to hear them howling on occasion and it made my neck hairs stand up. I’m fairly sure I saw one cross my headlights on my driveway one night. Only time I saw one in over nine years up there.

        2. avatar 16V says:

          Late for his hookup with his DEA buddy-dealer, who just bought a bunch of oxy/whatever that will never make it to evidence.

          Happens all day, every day.

    4. avatar neiowa says:

      too juvenile for anyone over 30.
      You apparently are not familiar with professional sports, taverns/bars, sports cars, etc etc etc.

    5. avatar StarvinMarvin says:

      If it was anybody but the ATF I’d agree, but the ATF is the trailer park trash of federal agencies.

      They take anybody.

  3. avatar DaveL says:

    an unmarked ATF vehicle whose official existence is shielded from ordinary police view.

    What possible reason could the ATF have for operating a vehicle whose existence is hidden from ordinary police?

    1. avatar MurrDog says:

      Same as the ATF has for existing. None at all.

      1. avatar Baldwin says:

        This.

      2. avatar Alan Esworthy says:

        This +

    2. avatar Anonymous says:

      They get privacy, you don’t. One rule for them, different rule for us.

      1. avatar Omer Baker says:

        All animals are equal, but some are more equal.

        1. avatar NWA says:

          Especially Pigs…

    3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      It’s the same as those little post office trucks. In Oregon, they are exempted from even having license plates.
      The data base isn’t accessible through normal channels.

    4. avatar Layne says:

      So what I think I’ve learned here is that I can put an invalid plate on my car and tell anyone who questions me that I’m undercover ATF. Of course I don’t have a badge, I’m DEEP undercover. With no way to check for 4 days, I should be golden.

    5. avatar Mojopin says:

      From a secuirty stand point you do not want the cratels or forgien/domestic terrorist organizations to be able to be able track license plate to a under cover agents home. They would love nothing more than to kill a agents or officer family in order to keep them from preforming thier duties. This is no accuse for someone to act like a idiot and at times can limit accountability for individuals whom abuse the power. I rather take the rare event of a untraceable car acting like a fool then a agents/officers family being murderd.

      1. avatar DaveL says:

        If the agent is undercover, you would certainly want them to have an ordinary plate that doesn’t throw up the red flag of being untraceable that screams “fed”. If they’re not undercover, it seems cartels could just as easily trace them by following them home from work. All this is assuming that police are already corrupt, which it seems to me is a much bigger problem than the safety of ATF agents.

        Speaking of which, exactly how many ATF agents have been recently assassinated at home by the cartels?

  4. avatar John L. says:

    My wife and I had a conversation about this sort of thing last weekend.

    In the next town over, we stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee. (I know..
    I know) As we were walking back to our car a police car parked in a “no parking” area in the (full) parking lot. This was actually in the way and partially blocking the exit from both the drive-through and the parking lot. The officer got out and went to the back of the line for coffee.

    In the grand scheme of things, a small thing, no? Well, not really. It engendered a good amount of disgust in me, at least. While I’m not a scofflaw in general, this casual assumption of immunity from rules the rest of us live by certainly gave me a lower opinion of the law’s representatives.

    1. avatar Frank in VA says:

      I witnessed a Fairfax County cop writing a ticket for a marked US Capitol Police car (probably a take home) that was illegally parked in a handicap spot near where I live. I gave him a thumbs up. If I hadn’t been in a hurry, I would have liked to hang around and see the look on the other cops face when he came out and found the ticket on his cruiser windshield.

      1. avatar Bob315 says:

        20 some years ago while a military cop, I gave one of my own guys a parking ticket for parking one of our vehicles in a no parking zone. Man, he was pissed, but I told him he could take a flying %&$#. The commander put him exclusively on gates and static posts for months.

  5. avatar Mr. 308 says:

    Yea they like those unmarked SUV’s with dashboard lights in NJ too.

    Wake me when someone is held to account. I won’t be holding my breath.

  6. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

    Unless Alaska gives Federal agents the authority to enforce state law the stop would be illegal if it was otherwise a legitimate action.

  7. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

    Yeah, it looks bad. Though, I will be the contrarian to point out that in the grand scheme of recent Federal abuses of power, focusing on this is like focusing on the muddy foot print left on your kitchen floor by the intruder who raped you, beat you with a tire iron, flayed you, rolled you in salt, and set you on fire.

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      Take it from a vroken windows point of view. If you take care of the small stuff the big stuff never happens. If you ignore the small stuff the big stuff quickly gets out of control.

      1. avatar Sian says:

        Broken Window theory has a lot of solid evidence behind it.

  8. avatar Anner says:

    White male in his 30’s with short hair. Mind narrowing that down a bit?

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      Are we allowed to point out that mentioning the race is profiling, bigotted, and racist?

      Sure it is a material fact to the issue but why should that matter…

    2. avatar NWA says:

      Whitey all looks alike anyway…

  9. avatar Anonymous says:

    You can criticize anyone but police?

  10. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    All government employee personnel matters, files, and records should be open to the public at all times. They work for us. We have every right to know who they are and where they live.

    1. avatar pod says:

      At the state and local level, you can often do that. Cop addresses may be blacked out though in most cases. However, salary isn’t. Usually you can find out how much that cop makes. Which is staggering.

      1. avatar 16V says:

        When doing the bidding of the oligarchs, the plebes sent to do it must believe they are well-compensated. Especially compared to the other plebes.

  11. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Shame the Alaskan cops couldn’t “detain” the occupants of the SUV until their identities were verified.

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    It’s not the ATF agent’s fault. It’s just that his jackboots accidentally hit his flashers.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      …..probably had a stiff right arm.

  13. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    This is why only Government Agents should have guns as they are so vetted and so responsible….

  14. avatar Bud Harton says:

    Wait!

    They got away with (literally) murder at Waco, Ruby Ridge and through Fast and Furious and you think the managers of ATF are going to worry about one of their agents abusing his power by running people off the road??

  15. avatar C.S. says:

    I hate armchair quarterbacking, but can we disband the ATF already? Fold them into the FBI and rescreen all the agents.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Lon Horiuchi was FBI, so I’m not sure a change of agencies would be an upgrade.

      1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        The FBI has abusive, lying sacks of ****, too. See the Wen Ho Lee case.

    2. avatar Sian says:

      Throw em back to the Dept of Revenue where they belong.

      ATF mainly exists to collect taxes.

      You don’t want the ATF and their attitude to suddenly acquire the resources and manpower of the FBI.

  16. avatar Williams says:

    Fucking Feds… Glad I work for a democratically elected official, one of the decent ones at least.

  17. avatar Wilson says:

    ” They see that nothing is done to correct them, and they conclude that officers consider themselves a special class, above the ordinary rules of society and the law.”

    This is the ATF we’re talking about, they are above the law and they are the law at the same time.

    I mean, what other agency would have agents tell you with a straight face that shouldering an “AR Pistol” is “re-manufacturing” the firearm? Which would come up with the concept of “constructive intent” because you have a spare AR stock in the same house as an AR pistol even if you don’t have the proper tube to attach the stock? None, because only the BATFE has the balls to make shit like that up and then try to enforce it. Even the EPA doesn’t have solid brass balls the size of the ATF.

    1. avatar Sian says:

      TSA comes close.

      I complained to TSA in San Francisco when they would not allow me to be present when a locked container with firearms was inspected, as is required by law. They flat out told me tough cookies, they do whatever they want and rules (and laws restricting their own behavior) don’t apply.

  18. avatar Chris Morton says:

    I’ve got four words for you:

    Good Old Boy’s Roundup

    There’s no behavior so low in character or intelligence that the BATFE won’t engage in it.

    1. What are the details of this roundup?

  19. avatar Patrick says:

    Section 1983 only applies to State actors, not federal actors. This would be a Bivens issue.

  20. avatar Nanashi says:

    Another thing you can use to explain to your candidates the ATF are clowns and should be punished in the only manner that will work: by repealing the unconstitutional NFA and GCA so they are left powerless.

    Why haven’t you written those letters yet?

  21. avatar John Gancho says:

    I don’t see how this is a surprise, seems like ATF is pretty accustomed to giving us the finger already, this is just the first time they’ve been so blatant.

  22. avatar vad varo says:

    Please circulate this article among your contributors as an example of a well-constructed, and presented, piece of writing

    Why?

    1 – Laconic, yet descriptive, headline

    2 – Economical use of words in presenting a summary of the entire article immediately after the headline

    3 – Clear and concise narrative of events, peppered with relevant details (who, what, when, where and how)

    4 – Writer’s own perspective on why this matters to us and, possibly, why the events happened the way they did

    5 – No major grammatical errors. No obvious spelling and punctuation errors.

    6 – Spare and straightforward language without any detours from the central topic/issue

    7 – On message and on target with the editorial perspective presented after the halfway mark.

    I wish all news articles and editorial perspectives were written this well

    Well done, Dean !

    My lately flagging faith in the quality of writing at TTAG has been revived

  23. avatar Brian is perturbed by having to hide his cussing, but likes to rant here... says:

    At least they weren’t lured up to an isolated property and subjected to a bunch of sh1tfreaks and tampon licking whores watching them use the toilet, before and during some sort of bizarre rape/murder attempt.

    Remember, guns are bad and if you own one, it is justified for the chosen to do whatever they want to you because you are not one with them.

    Oh, and never try to turn in a white/”jewish” pedo or take pictures of any police encounter or make any positive mentions of the U.S. Constitution as a document that enshrines basic human rights if you are in Hawaii. Or you will wind up crazy, like me, as long as you live.

  24. avatar Don from CT (Escaped to MA where at least there are lots of good jobs) says:

    This past summer I was on my way back from taking a class at the Sig academy. I drove out of the facility behind a dark blue ford van with tinted windows and grab rails and running boards all around the perimeter. A few minutes later they pulled over to get gas.

    About a half hour later I’m in the left lane in bumper to bumper traffic and this van is glued 4 ft off my bumper trying to bully me over. I’m not moving. Its bumper to bumper Boston traffic and I’d like to be going faster also.

    So I call the MSP non emerbency number and try to report a vehicle being driven recklessly. I give the guy the plate and he says it doesn’t exist. He’s getting no hits. I tell him its probably some kind of tactical team and describe the vehicle. He agrees. He tells me that unless they actually cause an accident, its not worth doing all the research to try to figure out who owns the van, much less who is actually driving.

    So with that, I just moved my mirrors down, sat back and turned up the radio. Oh well.

    Don

  25. avatar Hannibal says:

    ” It is a deprivation of rights under color of law…”

    Allllright, slow your roll cowboy.

    Let me show you “deprivation of rights under color of law.”
    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1071788.1336051075!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/ap6305030204-web.jpg

    There is no right anywhere to not get passed on the highway or have the bird flipped at you.

    1. avatar Clark45 says:

      Oddly high number of lefties on that police force in this photo… not saying it’s good or bad, just happened to notice.

  26. avatar Parnell says:

    I see them flash their lights all the time to run red lights when they are obviously not answering a call.

  27. avatar jmmy james says:

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Past CLO in my berg was one, a woman, two, a strict disciplinarian, three, added rule for dismissal if officers found speeding without blue lights and without cause, four suspension without pay if officers caught without complete uniform including, badge, name plate, weapon and cover (hat). She was wildly unpopular with her officers and did not last long in the position. What does that tell you?

  28. avatar Peter says:

    If this is the worst thing the BATF agents do this year we should consider ourselves lucky.

  29. avatar mike says:

    Idiot rookie agents.

  30. avatar Scorpion says:

    Why is anyone surprised by this? When Obama, the driver’s ultimate boss, violates laws and the Constitution, why shouldn’t he? The driver was just doing as Obama does.

  31. avatar Kevin in CO says:

    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is what I’m naming my general store.

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