Homeland Security Inspector General Releases Report on Border Patrol Use of Force

September 17, 2013 1:21 pm

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report today entitled, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Use of Force Training and Actions to Address Use of Force Incidents.” The OIG review was conducted 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.

In addition to making recommendations for further improvements in CBP’s statistical tracking of use-of- force incidents, which, surprisingly, have not been properly recorded, the report also identifies key problems with CBP training. An audit conducted of CBP training in 2012 – two years after the first of the recent series of fatal confrontations – found that many agents and officers do not understand use of force and the extent to which they may or may not use force.

“While it’s an important first step, this report represents a disappointing passing of the buck from the OIG to CBP’s own pending internal use-of-force review for a substantive assessment of CBP’s use-of-force policies,” said Chris Rickerd, American Civil Liberties Union policy counsel. “OIG should treat this report as only a first installment and proceed to fulfill the entirety of what members of Congress requested, which was a thorough assessment of CBP’s policies, including the adequacy of transparency and accountability for the agency’s troublingly frequent use-of-force incidents.”

“If any metropolitan police department was involved in 19 fatal shootings in the span of two years, we would be appalled and would expect that that they would look at best practices from other agencies to reduce use-of-force incidents, like body-worn cameras for officers,” said Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights. “CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, should be doing the same, but there is little indication in this report that they are.”

Today’s report is at: oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2013/OIG_13-114_Sep13.pdf

ACLU’s backgrounder on body-worn cameras for CBP is at: aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/strengthening-cbp-use-body-worn-cameras

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