In a meeting with a disability rights group, top officials of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms defended undercover agents who ensnared mentally disabled people in storefront stings across the U.S., but agreed to consider new training to avoid it happening in the future, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Peter Berns, head of The Arc, met with ATF officials last week, after he sent a searing letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying he was “appalled” by the findings of a Journal Sentinel investigation. The investigation found that the ATF used rogue tactics in cities from Portland Or., to Pensacola, Fl., using mentally disabled individuals to promote the operations and then turning around and arrested them.
ATF officials said agents made the best decisions they could, using “common sense,” but they weren’t always able to tell the difference between someone who is disabled and someone who is not, according to Berns. “When we pointed out that perhaps everybody would be in a better position if they had training to recognize the characteristics or red flags that they are dealing with someone with a diminished capacity, they simply agreed that it would be worthwhile and appropriate, that ‘common sense’ could be more well-informed,” Berns said. ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun said agency officials told Arc staff “we do not target individuals with intellectual disabilities.”