Use of Force:

ATF Policy, Training and Review Process Are Comparable to DEA's and FBI's

GGD-96-17: Published: Mar 29, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' (ATF) use of deadly force and dynamic entry, focusing on: (1) ATF policies on the use of deadly force; (2) how ATF conveys its policies to its agents; (3) the reasons for and the extent to which ATF uses dynamic entry and what equipment it uses; (4) ATF compliance with its procedures for investigating shooting and alleged excessive force incidents; and (5) how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) address similar issues.

GAO found that: (1) except for a few instances, the 1988 ATF policy on deadly force was consistent with prior DEA and FBI policies and the 1995 Departments of the Treasury and Justice uniform policies which superceded their agencies' policies; (2) agents may use deadly force only when they reasonably believe that suspects pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to themselves or other persons; (3) the three agencies' new agent training in their deadly force policies is similar and all agents are required to be retrained on a quarterly basis throughout their careers; (4) dynamic entry is used to ensure personal safety when access to premises is needed in high-risk situations or when suspects might swiftly destroy evidence; (5) the three agencies' method of dynamic entry and weaponry and equipment used was similar; (6) ATF reporting, investigating, and review procedures for shooting and excessive force incidents are consistent with recommended standards and similar to the other agencies'; (7) ATF and DEA excessive force procedures are generally comparable, but FBI procedures require that all allegations be submitted to Justice for possible criminal or civil rights violations before the allegations are self-investigated; (8) ATF generally complied with its investigative procedures during fiscal years 1990 through 1995; (9) ATF found that all intentional shootings were justified, most allegations of excessive force were unsubstantiated, and 5 agents warranted sanctioning for misconduct; and (1O) ATF is implementing lessons learned from the incidents, particularly the Waco, Texas, raid.

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