ATF’s ‘Elite’ Training Label Under Fire

( – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is being scrutinized after the training details for its Special Response Team (SRT) were recently revealed.

The elite team is responsible for conducting search warrants, criminal investigations involving firearm traffickers, as well as undercover, protective service, and surveillance operations. The training ATF agents receive includes a multitude of specialized skills required to execute the duties of the special team. Some of those skills involve helicopter operations, learning how to deploy chemical agents, and using various weapon systems. However, the training is just two weeks long, which appears to be a very short period to master the skills taught in the training program.

For comparison, Secret Service agents who train to become snipers undergo a rigorous 10-week training program to become proficient at just one skill. FBI Special Agents who put in for its Hostage Rescue Team must attend a 10-month New Operator Training School. The Counter Assault Team (CAT) for the Secret Service requires trainees to take part in a selection course that lasts two weeks. Then, the selected agents must complete a seven-week program to become a CAT agent. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who want to join the agency’s tactical unit undergo a three-week selection process and then a six-week training if they are chosen.

The ATF’s SRT was established in 1989, and a 2020 report showed it had 114 team members. Between 2015 and 2019, the team was utilized 886 times. All but 15 percent of the deployments were for conducting search and arrest warrants. SRT members are not required to wear body cameras but often participate in high-profile investigations.

One media outlet pointed out that obtaining a federal law enforcement license along with the SRT training takes merely three weeks more in training than it would take to become “a rookie street cop.” The ATF has been at the center of Republican criticism in recent years due to its overreach when rulemaking under the Biden administration.

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