So, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is back in the news for possibly targeting minorities in drug sting operations. The controversial law enforcement agency has been trying to nab criminals by offering them $100,000 to raid drug stash houses that don’t exist. The problem is the number of people arrested by ATF seem to be overwhelmingly black and Latino (via USA TODAY):
At least 91% of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, USA TODAY found after reviewing court files and prison records from across the United States. Nearly all were either black or Hispanic. That rate is far higher than among people arrested for big-city violent crimes, or for other federal robbery, drug and gun offenses.
The ATF operations raise particular concerns because they seek to enlist suspected criminals in new crimes rather than merely solving old ones, giving agents and their underworld informants unusually wide latitude to select who will be targeted. In some cases, informants said they identified targets for the stings after simply meeting them on the street.
“There’s something very wrong going on here,” said University of Chicago law professor Alison Siegler, part of a team of lawyers challenging the ATF’s tactics in an Illinois federal court. “The government is creating these crimes and then choosing who it’s going to target.”