SWAT-Style EPA Raid In Alaska Shines A Light On Federal Agencies With Arrest Power

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After EPA agents in tactical gear swarmed a mining operation in the tiny Alaskan outpost of Chicken last week, the State’s governor blasted the Feds, calling the raid an “absolutely unacceptable” example of government resorting to intimidation tactics to enforce something as nonviolent an (alleged) offense as the Clean Water Act.

Now, a new analysis of government data reveals the EPA is only one of dozens of Federal agencies that have self-contained armed divisions.

Looking past the DEA, FBI and, since 2002, the DHS, there are about 12,000 full-time Federal officers across 40 agencies who can carry firearms and arrest suspects, according to a Fox News analysis of a Justice Department report. Of those, at least a dozen agencies aren’t concerned at all with law enforcement, but nonetheless retain enforcement officers with guns.

“Though most Americans know agents within the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Prisons carry guns, agencies such as the Library of Congress and Federal Reserve Board employing armed officers might come as a surprise,” the Fox report states:

The number of federal department [sic] with armed personnel climbs to 73 when adding in the 33 offices of inspector general, the government watchdogs for agencies as large as the Postal Service to the Government Printing Office, whose IG has only five full-time officers.

The late-August raid on Chicken, a small gold mining town near the State’s eastern border, involved officers from the EPA, FBI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Coast Guard, NOAA and the U.S. Park Service. The Federal agents were allegedly acting in concert with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force, but the State’s Congressional delegation, as well as the State police, weren’t buying it.

“Their explanation – that there are concerns within the area of rampant drug trafficking and human trafficking going on – sounds wholly concocted to me,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)… This seems to have been a heavy-handed, and heavy-armor approach. Why was it so confrontational? The EPA really didn’t have any good answers for this.”

Chicken is a tiny place, with nothing resembling a block-grid infrastructure. Lying near the State’s Eastern border with Canada, it has a current population of seven. The only year-round access to the town is via a small local airstrip.

An Alaska State Trooper spokesperson also told the Alaska Dispatch that the State police had not advised the EPA of any “dangerous drug activity” in the area. “We do not have evidence to suggest that is occurring,” said Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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