Fort Worth

Acting Director of the ATF and Fort Worth Native Shares His Journey With Hometown Students

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Marvin Richardson is the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobbaco, Firearms and Explosives.

Friday, he spoke with students that are part of the My Brother’s Keeper program at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth. 

His office may be in Washington, D.C. but Fort Worth is home.

"I am from right here in Lake Como in the west side of Fort Worth Texas," Acting ATF Director Marvin Richardson said.

Among other degrees, Richardson has a business administration degree from the University of North Texas. UNT is also where his law enforcement career began. A friend asked him to join campus police.

"When he told me he was making $30,000 a year at the time, which was a lot money, I said I could probably do that for a minute and from that point, I was hooked,” Richardson said. “That was 37 years ago."

32 of those years were with the ATF. Richardson started as a Special Agent in the Dallas Field Division.

"It was called the Achilles Unit,” Richardson said. “It was 12 square blocks in south Dallas. That was 1989. Right at the height of the crack cocaine wars."

Now Richardson is over the agency fighting the war on crimes that bring in the ATF.

Those often include gun-related crimes.

Richardson weighed in on the new Texas permitless carry law.

"The states have the independence to pass whatever laws they choose,” Richardson said. “When you look again at the seconded amendment that's a right of all the people. So, we are not here to say oh my goodness you can't do this with a gun. What you can't do is you can't commit a criminal act with a firearm."

Fighting crime is one part of the job. But Richardson says he was drawn to the public service aspect that's most rewarding.

"When you can drive through a community you worked in and helped to eradicate that violence, and see kids playing in the street, see older people sitting on their porches again, that to me is worth more than any paycheck you could ever give me," Richardson said.

The journey through the ranks of the ATF hasn't been easy for Richardson.

"When you talk about being a Black man wearing a blue uniform, so to speak, carrying a badge it does create this dynamic inside of you," Richardson said.

So, he uses his life experience and the current calls for social justice since the death of George Floyd to train agents.

"I talk to our agents about having to be socially conscious in our efforts to police," Richardson said.

Leading by example for agents under him and with the message he tries to share with students back in his hometown.

"You can let those obstacles deter you or you can't let them challenge you and make you find ways to get over, around or through them."

Richardson spent five years as an officer with the University of North Texas Police Department reaching the rank of Lieutenant before leaving for the ATF.

Richardson is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

He is married with six children. His wife is also from Fort Worth.

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