“Hardly Anyone Knows What We Do, But We Are the Ones Doing It,” Says ATF Agent Amy Michalik — by Jude McGee

The ATF—the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire- arms and Explosives. You do see it in the news but not as much as it deserves to be or as the heroic force for justice our speaker, Amy Michalik, ATF agent for more than 8 years, urges us to believe it is.
She has found that even today, on the elite squads she usually is part of (including a task force on international drug trafficking chasing the Mexican cartels,) she is the only woman. She has earned her place at the top by sheer skill, determination, and a very high success rate, having brought down some famous criminals both as a police officer and federal agent. Some of her exploits garnered headlines, as when the Black Mafia Family (BMF) ran drugs out of their music studio front in Detroit. Called “Shorty White” on the street, she nevertheless managed to talk to some “Baby Mamas” (a term for the unmarried girlfriends with kids who run with criminals) until she found ones who would break. In the case of the BMF, the sentences ranged from 16 1⁄2 to 32 years.
The fact that she was a cop gained her quicker credibility both on the street and with law enforcement in general. Thus informal relationships led her to participate in many situations where she did, indeed, get the bad guys—her main objective. Once, she called a cop friend to ask advice on selecting a tattoo, and he said, “Not a good time, I’m at a robbery.” She said, “Where?” and she joined them, made a federal case of it because the perp, who had jumped on the counter holding a girl at gunpoint had a violent criminal history. He got sent away for 27 years.
Agent Michalik frankly admits that best selling mysteries of Stephen Cannell and Patricia Cornwell, much of whose work is on the large and small screen, are what inspired her to seek a career in law enforcement. Now the wheel has turned, and she is in Los Angeles to pursue a second career in screenwriting.
Even though her duties have involved many high profile successes, and includes such fun as teaching A-list actors how to fall, Agent Michalik is frustrated by the constraints put on law enforcement, somehow more acutely felt and stifling in California. The fact that she is a federal agent and the laws are thus the same throughout the country baffles her as to why this is so. Maybe the judges, she suggests.
“The interagency rivalries have not been put entirely to rest as we hoped would happen with the post 9/11 changes in oversight, when most agencies were put under the Justice Department.” Agent Michalik thinks most, if not all agencies grab for headlines (she privately calls the FBI the “FBLie”) while ATF handles the bulk of violent criminals at the federal level. This even though the FBI has 30,000 agents to the ATF’s 7000.
Trying to explain what she sees as a lot of legal obstruction of justice, Agent Michalik suggested, “Our forefathers must have been crooks because all the regulations in place favor the bad guys.”


3 Responses to ““Hardly Anyone Knows What We Do, But We Are the Ones Doing It,” Says ATF Agent Amy Michalik — by Jude McGee” (post new)

  1. Lindsay Pearson

    -The shoe picture – absolutely dynamite! (and so like you!)
    -Michalik story fascinating in every detail, almost incredible.
    -Lines hard to read because too dense.
    -At first I didn’t understand whether this was true, or if she was a character of your invention.
    -I had to wonder, is Michalik afraid of reprisals?
    -I also would love an example of how Calif is more stifling to her?


    nice post. thanks.


    Well, when you do it, you do it right!!! As for Michalik, I also wondered about reprisals. I felt this was the first time she did this kind of speaking gig. I even felt a little bad quoting her so, somehow, dangerously. But she did say it all, to a large room full of writers. As for Calif being more stifling, apparently the judges here are much more rigorous on the rights of the accused. Even though the same federal laws are on the books, she said, they are more attended to by CA judges. I don’t remember if she gave us any examples. I, too, love the shoe, It’s thanks to Almodovar. LOVE

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