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WASHINGTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today announced a commitment to make changes to its use of force practices. This comes on the heels of the report issued last week by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) on CBP use of force training and incidents. Both today's release and last week's OIG report are in response to a sharp increase in fatalities caused by Border Patrol agents along the Southwest border since 2010, as well as a letter signed by 16 members of Congress in May 2012 calling for a review of these incidents and CBP's policies regarding all uses of force along the border and at ports of entry.
"The commitments CBP announced today, while representing an important advance, are limited in scope and vision," said Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico's Regional Center for Border Rights. "The biggest missing piece here is clear and transparent accountability for officers involved in use-of-force incidents that lead to serious physical injury or death. Without a commitment to end the culture of impunity at CBP, the agency's good first steps will lead nowhere."
Earlier this year, the ACLU began developing recommendations to address CBP use-of-force incidents. Released today, these comprehensive recommendations include calls for specific revisions to CBP's Use of Force Policy Handbook; an upgrade in equipment including body-worn cameras for CBP agents; a robust and transparent system of oversight and accountability; and a call for CBP to develop a policy on notification and reporting on all deaths that occur as a result of a CBP encounter, modeled after the policy launched in 2009 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding deaths in ICE detention.
"If fully incorporated, our recommendations, would help ensure that CBP officers are trained in and held to the highest professional law enforcement standards," said Ruthie Epstein, American Civil Liberties Union policy analyst." Given the political appetite for more enforcement at an already militarized border, we need a stronger commitment from CBP to radically reform its use of force practices than the two-page plan it issued today."
Today's guidelines are at: cbp.gov/xp/cgov/border_security/bs/force_reviews.xml
ACLU's Use of Force Recommendations are linked below. They are being submitted to CBP, DHS, and the White House: aclu.org/immigrants-rights/aclu-use-force-recommendations-cbp-officers