ACLU CBP Body-Camera Announcement Fails to Address Accountability Crisis

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
November 12, 2015 2:45 pm

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ACLU of New Mexico
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LAS CRUCES, NM—Today, Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske announced additional phases to further study the use of body-worn and other camera technologies at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The announcement follows the conclusion of a feasibility study, which tested body-worn cameras in both training and operational environments for all CBP component agencies and included field-testing by the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.

“CBP, our nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is in a deep accountability crisis with an urgent need for systemic cultural changes,” stated Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights. “Every day CBP drags its feet, they enable Border Patrol agents to abuse their power, profile residents, and kill unarmed civilians in incidents that to date have been shrouded in secrecy and offend American values of equality and justice.”

Where similar records of abuse to CBP’s have shown up in state and local police agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice has often intervened and struck legal agreements to force reforms. There are at least 42 families who have lost loved ones in CBP deadly-force incidents since 2010, several of which are known to the public only through cellphone videos. In this context, Commissioner Kerlikowske’s hesitant announcement of another incremental stage of body-worn-camera testing is alarmingly unequal to the task and reinforces CBP’s harmful effort to play by different rules than police.

“Based on its record of unaccountable abuses, CBP has not earned any benefit of the doubt in moving hesitantly on body-worn-camera deployment,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “There is an urgent need for CBP to adopt cameras widely within a strong privacy framework, in order to begin rebuilding trust with border communities. Some of the worst CBP uses of force were, fortunately, recorded by members of the public; cameras would undoubtedly have captured more abusive conduct. CBP is dangerously overdue in catching up with this and other best law-enforcement practices.”

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