Saturday, May 31, 2014
During his first 100 days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske has established transparency as a top priority. His office just released a revised use of force policy handbook and a consultant study from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The use of force policy handbook incorporates most of the recommendations found in the reviews by third parties – PERF and Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
The following changes were made to the handbook such as requiring additional training in the use of safe tactics and instituting the requirement to carry less-lethal devices, based on operational needs and requirements, such as a less lethal specialty impact/chemical munition and a controlled tire deflation device specifically engineered to enhance agent and officer and public safety.
In addition to updating the handbook, CBP is undertaking a comprehensive review and redesign of its basic training curriculum, establishing a center of excellence to continuously evaluate use of force policy and procedures, and installing border fence training venues and purchasing use of force training simulator systems designed to provide officers and agents with a more realistic and job specific training experience.
Julia Preston of the New York Times comments on the new Handbook and the consultant's study into the use of force. The research forum report examined 67 episodes from January 2010 through October 2012 in which deadly force had been used, mainly by Border Patrol agents along the Southwest border. The report focused particularly on incidents where agents had responded by shooting when they were attacked with rocks or when they were attempting to stop smugglers’ vehicles carrying illegal border crossers or drugs. In some instances, Border Patrol agents shot through fences along the border at rock throwers on the other side in Mexico. The review found a “lack of diligence” by the agency in investigating episodes where deadly force had been used.
While the report recognized that Border Patrol agents have a “unique and hazardous assignment,” with frequent rock attacks and confrontations with armed smugglers of migrants and narcotics, it found that in several cases where agents shot at rock throwers, the force appeared to be excessive. “Too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force,” the report said.
The report made recommendations to change the border agency’s use-of-force policies, to equip agents with weapons less lethal than guns, and to train agents to avoid shooting at moving vehicles when possible.
For another media analysis of the report and policy changes, click here.