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Fact Sheet - Special Agents

May, 2018
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Fast Facts

  1. ATF special agents regularly investigate violations related to narcotics trafficking, organized crime, criminal street gangs, and violent crime.

  2. Special agents are subject to reassignment to any ATF office in the United States, to include any U.S. territory or ATF overseas assignment.

  3. ATF special agents go through a two-part training program which consists of the Criminal Investigators Training Program and Special Agent Basic Training.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agents are the backbone of the ATF criminal enforcement mission. The special agent position is not only unique, but ultimately one of the most challenging in federal law enforcement.  ATF is a law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice.  

ATF special agents are highly trained and responsible for investigating violations of federal laws relating to firearms, explosives, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion. In the strategic effort to protect and serve the public, ATF special agents regularly investigate violations related to narcotics trafficking, organized crime, criminal street gangs, and violent crime.   

The special agent profession is exciting and rewarding, but also requires toughness both physically and mentally. The position requires rigorous training, personal risks, irregular hours, and extensive travel. Special agents are subject to reassignment to any ATF office in the United States, to include any U.S. territory or ATF overseas assignment.

Major duties of a special agent include:

  • Investigating criminal violations of federal laws within the enforcement jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.
  • Conducting investigations of violations relating to explosives, firearms, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion.
  • Preparing concise criminal investigative case reports.
  • Testifying for the federal government in court or before grand juries.
  • Gathering and analyzing evidence through investigative leads, seizures, arrests, execution of search warrants, and a variety of other means.
  • Using knowledge of the federal and state laws involving firearms, explosives, arson, and alcohol and tobacco diversion. 
  • Using intelligence-based policing methods and data analysis.
  • Working with and providing assistance to federal, state, and local law enforcement and public safety partners.

ATF special agents go through special agent training for new hires, which consists of a two-part training program.  The first part is the Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP) delivered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) under the Department of Homeland Security in Glynco, Ga.  The CITP provides fundamental training in the techniques, concepts and methodologies of conducting criminal investigations. Some of the subjects covered in the training include training in firearms, physical techniques, driving techniques, handcuffing, interviewing, surveillance, crime scene management, photography, basic firearms training and federal court procedures.

The CITP lasts approximately 12 weeks.  Each class consists of up to 48 students, of whom approximately half are ATF trainees. The remaining portion of the CITP class consists of students from other federal agencies.  The CITP requirement may be waived for new hires who have attended the CITP with another federal agency.  Successful completion of CITP is mandatory to maintain employment.

The second part of training is the Special Agent Basic Training (SABT) at the ATF National Academy located on the grounds of FLETC.  SABT for special agent trainees is a demanding and intensive training program that covers a wide range of disciplines including firearms and ammunition identification; firearms trafficking; report writing, interviewing techniques; alcohol/tobacco diversion investigations; explosives and fire/arson investigations; firearms and tactical training, close quarter countermeasures; field operations, undercover techniques; and physical conditioning.  SABT is approximately 15 weeks of training for a class of up to 24 student trainees.  

SABT is designed to meet all of the foundational requirements of a newly hired ATF special agent trainee. Successful completion of SABT is mandatory to maintain employment.

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