There’s been a furore in news and social media about an Internal Revenue Service recruitment ad for “IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent”. It’s since been pulled, but not before it had been archived: you can view the whole thing at this link. The part that gave people pause for thought is this:
- Adhere to the highest standards of conduct, especially in maintaining honesty and integrity.
- Work a minimum of 50 hours per week, which may include irregular hours, and be on-call 24/7, including holidays and weekends.
- Maintain a level of fitness necessary to effectively respond to life-threatening situations on the job.
- Carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force, if necessary.
- Be willing and able to participate in arrests, execution of search warrants, and other dangerous assignments.
Armed IRS officers and agents are nothing new. Many Federal agencies have an armed enforcement division (although whether that’s a good thing is open to debate). Remember Al Capone versus “Prohibition Agents” Eliot Ness and “The Untouchables“? The latter were armed Federal agents, but not police.
IRS agents are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Georgia. It’s a big campus, a former US military base that was transformed into an umbrella training academy for most US government law enforcement personnel. I spent three weeks there training to be a Chaplain with the Bureau of Prisons, part of the Department of Justice. (No, they wouldn’t let Chaplains participate in the firearms training, but by then I was a far better and more practiced shot than most of the students there, so I didn’t mind.) In the process, I recall meeting some of the IRS trainee agents. They told me their duties included making arrests in cases where investigations had revealed significant criminal activity (e.g. drug trafficking, fraud, etc.) where armed resistance was expected. I guess that’s a legitimate use, but I question how many armed agents the IRS has compared to its overall headcount, and where they’re deployed. They don’t talk about that much.
With the news that 87,000 new IRS personnel are to be hired, making it one of the biggest Federal agencies, the timing of the advertisement for armed IRS agents is – to say the least – unfortunate. It gives the impression of jackbooted thugs determined to screw every last cent out of those who owe tax. That’s not what it’s about, but it’s the impression that counts – and, at least at present, that’s all it is: an impression. The IRS has a different view, of course, as expressed in this Time magazine article (which is worth reading, even if you dispute some of its contents).
Unfortunately, with the Democratic Party behaving very much like jackbooted thugs in ramming their extremist programs through against all opposition, it’s likely to become a lasting impression; and that’s very bad for the future of the IRS. If the average American comes to view any Federal agency as no more than the enforcement arm for a political ideology, they’re going to push back, and push back hard. Sure, many people will submit like sheep: but many will not. I suspect there’s going to be a lot of that until such time as we replace our present dictatorial regime with one that’s more responsive to the will of the people – and if the regime doesn’t want to be replaced (it doesn’t), that may be a process fraught with difficulty. Armed officers from any and all Federal agency(ies) may come to be regarded as enemies of the people. That’s a very, very bad place for them to be – and it’s very bad for our constitutional republic.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink the role and function of armed US civil service personnel. They may have outlived their usefulness. Right now there are no less than 73 US government departments that are authorized to use armed agents. Together they employ not less than 120,000 armed personnel – about 40 per 100,000 US residents – and the number may have grown significantly since those figures were compiled. I think that’s ridiculous! I’d much rather see armed civil service personnel recruited and/or consolidated into no more than two or three agencies (say, the FBI – after it’s been reformed! – the Secret Service and the US Marshals Service), rigorously trained and monitored, and deployed to assist other agencies only under clearly defined, carefully regulated circumstances. Frankly, I’d feel safer that way. Big Brother is scary enough, without having him armed to the teeth.