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Washington Post: Reforms Could Usher in Accountability for Border Patrol

By Washington Post
Editorial Board

Few federal government agencies have grown as quickly as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the 21,000 agents, double the number in 2004, who patrol the nation’s frontiers with Mexico and Canada. That growth has been accompanied by an alarming number of incidents involving the use of lethal force, particularly along the Mexican border and all too frequently under circumstances that suggest the agency is indifferent or hostile to the most basic standards of restraint, transparency and self-policing.

Reports by news organizations and independent experts — including one report that was suppressed by Customs and Border Protection for more than a year — have finally prompted the agency to address its problems with accountability. The agency’s new commissioner, R. Gil Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle and Buffalo, has proposed serious reforms.

The question now is whether an organization that badly needs change, and the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents some 17,000 agents in the field, will be receptive to reform.

Mr. Kerlikowske’s ideas for revamping the agency’s policies and culture are far-ranging. Soon after taking office in March, he initiated a review of hundreds of incidents since 2009 involving agents’ alleged misconduct and use of deadly force; 155 such incidents remain under review.

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