The ATF Suggests You Call SWAT Raids on Your Exes for Valentine's Day

Ever wonder where people get the idea that police are thin-skinned bullies?


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is inviting you to celebrate Valentine's Day by getting your ex thrown in federal prison. How thoughtful:

"Got an ex who buys or sells guns illegally?" the agency tweeted. "We would love to treat them to a Valentine's Day surprise!" Underneath it includes a hotline, an email address, and website for revenge-minded former lovers who want to give the gift of government-sanctioned violence.

To be completely clear here: The ATF doesn't respond to illegal gun sales with a polite knock on the door and questions. In January, for example, ATF agents swooped into Wilkes-Barre Township at the crack of dawn to raid a home, scaring the neighbors.

The ATF's irresponsible message today encourages people to try to get their ex-lovers hit with SWAT raids, as when "pranksters" call police and falsely claim a violent crime is taking place at their target's address, prompting officers to show up in force, weapons ready. In such cases, innocent people are terrorized—or worse. Cops killed a man in Wichita, Kansas, in 2017 when a caller pretended a hostage situation was underway.

The man responsible for that Wichita call was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 20 years. But now the ATF is encouraging people to use law enforcement officers as tools of revenge.

The ATF is not alone. The Rockmart Police Department in Georgia also turned to social media to encourage jilted lovers to use them for revenge. "Do you have an ex-Valentine and know they have outstanding warrants? Do you have information that they are driving with drugs in their car? Give us a call with their location and we'll take care of the rest," the department posted on Facebook and Instagram. They got the idea from the Robeson County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina. The same thing happened in North Carolina last year.

This isn't harmless. The potential for a vengeful former lover to target a completely innocent person should have given law enforcement agencies pause before posting these messages. The fact that it didn't speaks to an unpleasant mindset that has taken hold among some cops—the idea that their authority is an acceptable tool not just to stop crimes but to punish those who have done you wrong. Far too many cases of police abuse revolve around officers targeting those who expose their bad behavior, criticize them, or reject their advances.