Armed EPA raid in Alaska sheds light on 70 fed agencies with armed divisions
The recent uproar over armed EPA agents descending on a tiny Alaska mining town is shedding light on the fact that 40 federal agencies – including nearly a dozen typically not associated with law enforcement — have armed divisions.
The agencies employ about 120,000 full-time officers authorized to carry guns and make arrests, according to a June 2012 Justice Department report.
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 incident that sparked the renewed interest and concern occurred in late August when a team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold mining town of Chicken, Alaska.
The Environmental Protection Agency, whose armed agents in full body armor participated, acknowledged taking part in the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force investigation, which it said was conducted to look for possible violations of the Clean Water Act.
However, EPA officials denied the operation was a “raid” and didn’t address speculation about whether it was connected to possible human and drug trafficking.
“Imagine coming up to your diggings, only to see agents swarming over it like ants, wearing full body armor, with jackets that say “POLICE” emblazoned on them, and all packing side arms,” gold miner C.R. Hammond told the Alaska Dispatch.
The other federal agencies participating in the operation were the FBI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Park Service.
The FBI, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Park Service are among 24 federal agencies employing more than 250 full-time armed officers with arrest authority, according the federal report, which is based on the 2008 Census of Federal Law Enforcement Officers.
The other 16 agencies have less than 250 officers and include NOAA as well as the Library of Congress, the Federal Reserve Board and the National Institutes of Health.
The number of federal department 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 EPA defended its use of armed officers, after the Alaska incident.
“Environmental law enforcement, like other forms of law enforcement, always involves the potential for physical, even armed, confrontation,” the agency said.
But Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has already ordered an investigation, saying “This level of intrusion and intimidation of Alaskans is absolutely unacceptable.”
In addition, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Republican, and Mark Begich, Democrat, have inquired about the incident.
Murkowski said purported concerns about rampant drug and human trafficking in the area sounded “wholly concocted” to her.
“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,” she told the newspaper.
This is not the first time armed EPA guards have been accused of intimidating behavior.
In May 2012, North Carolina resident Larry Keller was visited by armed EPA agents after sending an email to Al Armendariz, the regional administrator who was video-taped saying his enforcement strategy was to “crucify” executives from big oil and gas companies.
“The charter of the EPA is to protect the environment and public, not to act as a quasi federal police department,” Keller said after the brief but tense exchange with agents about whether the missive might seem suspicious.
The Department of Homeland Security employs nearly half of all federal officers, through Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the most recent statistics show. The statistics also show the number of CBP officers increased by 33 percent from 2004 to 2008. The number for ICE was 20 percent over the same period.
Meanwhile, the four largest Interior Department agencies employed fewer officers during that time, including the Park Police, which employed 547 officers in 2008, 11 percent less than four years earlier, according to the 2012 report.
Wow. Talk about overkill. In this incident, we have seven agencies involved in an investigation of violations to the Clean Water Act, but supposedly there was the possibility of drug and human trafficking, so they bring out the full body armor and storm the mine. But it wasn’t ‘a raid’.
The first question that comes to mind is, what does the EPA have to do with a drug & human trafficking investigation? For the EPA to address a violation of the Clean Water Act in full body armor is overkill to say the least. The fact that there are over 70 agencies in our government is ludicrous and that they are armed is also overkill.
Following is a list of the agencies that have armed divisions with 250 or more employees. There are more, but these are the largest ones. This data comes from a 2012 Justice Department report.
Agency Number of full-time officers
U.S. Customs and Border Protection – 36,863
Federal Bureau of Prisons – 16,835
Federal Bureau of Investigation – 12,760
Immigration and Customs Enforcement – 12,446
U.S. Secret Service – 5,213
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts* – 4,696
Drug Enforcement Administration – 4,308
U.S. Marshals Service – 3,313
Veterans Health Administration – 3,128
IRS, Criminal Investigation – 2,636
Bureau of ATF and Explosives – 2,541
U.S. Postal Inspection Service – 2,288
U.S. Capitol Police – 1,637
National Park Service – Rangers – 1,404
Bureau of Diplomatic Security – 1,049
Pentagon Force Protection Agency – 725
U.S. Forest Service – 644
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – 598
National Park Service – U.S. Park Police – 547
National Nuclear Security Administration – 363
U.S. Mint Police – 316
Amtrak Police – 305
Bureau of Indian Affairs – 277
Bureau of Land Management – 255
*Limited to federal probation officers employed in federal judicial districts that allow officers to carry firearms.
It appears that Obama has established that militia he said we needed, and as always, it’s for our safety.