Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Probe of Border Patrol Brutality and Excessive Force

From the Southern Border Communities Coalition

Probe of Border Agency Opens Amidst Wave of Deadly Shootings
Border Groups Alarmed, Fault Leadership Vacuum at CBP

Southern Border Region: After years of advocating for the Federal Government to control the U.S. Border Patrol, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC)  has learned that the Office of the Inspector General will be conducting an investigation that will look into cases of brutality or use of excessive force by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. The OIG’s announcement comes at a time of increasingly deadly and disproportionate use-of-force, a problem that is exacerbated by a leadership vacuum at the top of CBP.

Since July of this year, four unarmed border residents have been shot and killed in separate incidents by Border Patrol agents in the southern border region. One San Diego resident, who was a U.S. citizen, was killed in a residential area. Three others were residents of Mexican border communities and were killed while standing in Mexico by bullets shot across the border by Border Patrol agents.  Additionally, a Border Patrol agent was shot and killed by a colleague in a friendly-fire incident near Naco, Arizona, raising to 5 the number of killings in three months, and raising to 19 the number of known killings since 2010.

“The credibility of the 'largest law enforcement agency in the nation' is in doubt, and the public is overdue an explanation. It is time for a full and open investigation into the systemic use-of-force problems within CBP, said Krystal M. Gómez, Advocacy and Policy Counsel ACLU of Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley Office.

Among the victims, was U.S. citizen and mother of five, Valeria Munique Tachiquin, who was shot and killed by a plain-clothed agent, Justin Tackett, in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista. SBCC is gravely concerned about Border Patrol hiring practices after learning this week that Agent Tackett was suspended four times for misconduct as an Imperial County (CA) Sheriff’s Deputy and had a very troubling record in that law enforcement agency. The Sheriff’s Depertament ultimately issued Tackett a notice of termination for “unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, violation of or refusal to obey reasonable regulations, insubordination, violation of rules, incompetence and failure to follow proper procedures for arrest, search and seizure and treatment of persons in custody.”
       
“Knowingly hiring bad apples, having a policy of shooting first and asking questions later, being accountable to no one, all point to an agency that is out of control. The Border Patrol is rapidly subjecting border residents to a state of violence,”  said Christian Ramirez, human rights director at Alliance San Diego and SBCC director.

The Office of the Inspector General has confirmed it has begun a review of CBP’s use-of-force policy following a letter issued by 16 Members of Congress. Earlier this year, these Members of Congress expressed concerns over the beating death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas while under CBP custody in 2010. That case is still under investigation and not a single agent has been disciplined.

For several years now, the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders have failed to appoint and ratify a Commissioner for CBP.  The top post remains vacant.

“CBP needs to develop a comprehensive plan to fully vet agents, use de-escalation techniques to avoid lethal use of force, and implement a zero-tolerance policy that holds Border Patrol agents accountable when they commit human and civil rights violations,” said Vicki Gaubeca, Director of the Regional Center for Border Rights of the ACLU of New Mexico.

Contacts:
Ricardo Favela, Alliance San Diego, 760.659.3620, [email protected]
Dione Friends, ACLU of Texas, 713.942.8146, [email protected]
 
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