By Miriam Raftery
September 19, 2014 (San Diego) – In response to complaints over alleged misuse of force against detainees and suspected border crossers, the U.S. Border Patrol has announced it will begin testing body cameras on its agents starting October 1st. Initially the testing will be done at the agency’s training center in New Mexico. If found to be successful, the cameras could be implemented more broadly to equip agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske made the announcement Thursday. He also revealed that the agency has been given new authority to investigate misconduct of its agents, after releasing a report earlier this year which found some use of force incidents lacked justification, USA Today reports.
The Border Patrol also announced this week that it will form an advisory group to develop best practice law enforcement and integrity recommendations. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen Tandy will lead the panel.
The immigrant rights group Alliance San Diego, which has been pushing for body cameras to be adopted by the Border Patrol, hailed the announcement. Executive director Andrea Guerrero says that while not the total solution, the cameras “are a critical tool in ensuring transparency and accountability,” UT San Diego reports.
Statistically, body cameras reduce complaints against officers where used elsewhere. But Gabe Pacheco, a San Diego spokesman for the National Border Control Council that represents over 17,000 line agents nationwide, says that while cameras can be helpful, some agents also have raised potential problems.
“Will this tool be used against Border Patrol agents to administratively get us into trouble?” he asks, adding that some agents have voiced concerns that the cameras might make agents hesitate to use force where needed, potentially endangering agents in situations where split-second judgments must be made.