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By Trevor Hill

June 5, 2014 (San Diego)--Last week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) finally released a report written by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in February of 2013, which criticized the Border Patrol’s Use of Force policies. The release comes after months of public pressure applied by faith leaders, border communities, and law enforcement since the leakage of some of the report’s findings last November. This event marks a significant victory for those who oppose excessive use of force and support increased transparency in government agencies.

The PERF criticized border agents for their “zeal.” This report came last year after the total number of casualties due to excessive use of force by the CBP amounted to 28. Some of the cases that the PERF reviewed which pertained to excessive use of force included instances of agents firing upon subjects who were throwing rocks, tazing children, putting themselves in the path of oncoming vehicles to justify firing at them, and firing at fleeing vehicles.

Although these sorts of actions have been defended in the past as necessary for the protection of Border Patrol agents, in light of the PERF’s review, the CBP has made significant changes to its policies to protect innocents from the use of excessive force.

“Two policy and practice areas especially need significant change,” the PERF review stated, “First, agents should be prohibited from shooting at vehicles unless vehicle occupants are attempting to use deadly force--other than the vehicle--against the agent. Training and tactics should focus on avoiding positions that put agents in the path of a vehicle and getting out of the way of moving vehicles.

Second, agents should be prohibited from using deadly force against subjects throwing objects not capable of causing serious physical injury or death to them. Agents should be trained to specific situations and scenarios that involve subjects throwing such objects. The training should emphasize pre-deployment strategies, the use of cover and concealment, maintaining safe distances, equipping vehicles and boats with protective cages and/or screening, de-escalation strategies, and where reasonable the use of less-lethal devices.”

In response to this review, the CBP has released a new Use of Force Handbook which addresses virtually all of the concerns raised by the PERF. The new Handbook instructs all CBP agents to do the following:

1. “Report all incidents of use of force for the agency to review.”

2. “Limit use of Electronic Control Weapons (Tasers) to situations in which subject is resisting in a manner that will cause injury; Do not apply more than 3 times or to sensitive areas, or in flammable situations, or to vulnerable populations (children, etc.).”

3. “Do not shoot at moving vehicles unless imminent threat of serious injury or death; Do not shoot at fleeing vehicles; Do not place yourself in the path of moving vehicle.”

4. “Do not shoot in response to projectiles unless there is danger of serious death or injury; Seek cover or remove yourself from area of danger.”

Organizations involved with the Campaign for an Accountable, Moral and Balanced Immigration Overhaul (CAMBIO) released statements last week in response to the report’s release.

Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, stated that “The release of these two documents hopefully heralds a new and welcomed age of transparency for the agency. It will still be important to see how these revised policies on use of force are translated into training and the agency will require monitoring to ensure that agents who violate these new policies are held accountable.”

Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego and co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, called for action from the president and his administration. “Releasing the PERF report was a necessary first step to gain confidence in the new leadership CBP and DHS,” she said. “The Obama administration has an opportunity now to move forward substantive reforms to ensure the agency is held to the highest standards of professionalism and that decades of abusive and unaccountable behavior is finally put to rest.”

To view the PERF’s review of the Border Patrol’s actions, visit the following link:

To view the CBP’s newly revised Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook visit the following link:

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