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Tag: accountability

LA Times: Border Patrol Must Continue Accountability, Use of Force Improvements

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

By Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times

Over the past three years, the Obama administration has struggled to change a culture of violence and impunity within the U.S. Border Patrol — a culture that has tolerated excessive force against suspected border crossers, including unnecessary lethal shootings. To its credit, the government has forced some improvements in both transparency and accountability, as well as reductions in the use of force, under Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, though the agency continues to face dogged problems with bribery and other underhanded actions by some of the agents.

Whether the Border Patrol will continue to improve under the Trump administration is an open question. Kerlikowske is retiring and President-elect Donald Trump has not yet nominated a successor. Mark Morgan took over as chief of the Border Patrol, answering to Kerlikowske, in October, the first outsider to be put in charge of the agency. A former assistant director of the FBI and military veteran, Morgan was brought in to the Border Patrol two years ago to revamp its troubled internal affairs department. His appointment as chief signals the seriousness with which the Obama administration is trying to force changes by challenging the institutional culture.

But Morgan will now be working for Trump, whose harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign is well known and who has vowed to take dramatic steps (such as building an enormous wall along the Mexican border) to keep immigrants from entering the country without authorization. Despite getting little support from organized labor generally, Trump received a rare early endorsement in the primaries from the union representing border patrol agents, which has been critical of the Obama administration’s reform efforts and has accused it of seeking to “demoralize Border Patrol agents” and to “dismantle immigration enforcement.” In accepting the union’s endorsement, Trump didn’t emphasize the reforms that need to be made, but merely vowed to provide the agency with “the resources, tools and support they need to protect the United States and stop the influx of drugs, gangs and cartel violence.” Given that, there is reason to fear backsliding.

To read more click here. 

Los Angeles Times: Border Patrol Needs to Move More Quickly with Body Cameras

Border Patrol

By Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times 

To assure the public of their commitment to transparency and accountability, many law enforcement agencies across the country have embraced body-worn cameras with admirable rapidity. However, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, is moving so slowly to adopt this new technology that it appears not to be moving at all.

In August, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection working group completed a yearlong feasibility study of body cameras at the request of Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. The group did an adequate job of outlining the pitfalls of having Border Patrol agents wear cameras (resistance by the officers, privacy concerns and cost, among other things) and the benefits (decreased use-of-force incidents, better record-keeping and improved safety of officers).

No surprises there. Police agencies made similar cost-benefit analyses as they prepared to roll out their programs. And while tricky, none of the policy challenges has proved insurmountable. Meanwhile, studies over the past year have found that when police wear body cameras and record video of interactions with suspects, it really does influence the behavior of officers and suspects alike, and dramatically reduces use-of-force incidents.

This made Kerlikowske’s announcement last week that even more review of body cameras was still necessary all the more suspect. Was this just a stalling tactic by a department not committed to transparency?

To read more click here.  

Other Stories of Interest

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Another Failure of Drug War is Lack of Accountability

dea-badgeBy Editorial Board
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Each year, the United States spends more than $51 billion on the war on drugs — a war we’re clearly losing. The war has become so futile that the federal agency charged with leading the fight has undermined its own mission — and no one is being held accountable.

A Justice Department review found that, for years, DEA agents assigned to Colombia indulged in sex parties involving prostitutes supplied by drug cartels. The report found that local police often stood guard during the parties, keeping an eye on the agents’ weapons and other belongings, and that three DEA supervisors involved in the parties accepted gifts of money, weapons and other items from the cartels.

“Most of the sex parties occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government-issued equipment were present … potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail or coercion,” the report said.

Despite the fact that the misconduct put agents and national security at risk, the agency’s Office of Security Programs was never made aware of the issue, and the agents were issued paltry suspensions ranging from 10 to as little as two days.

But DEA misconduct goes much deeper.

According to newly released U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discipline logs reviewed by USA Today and the Huffington Post, agency employees have avoided termination for a variety of serious violations, including falsifying official records, having an “improper association with a criminal element” using and distributing drugs and driving government vehicles while drunk. And when administrators did recommend termination — which was rare — the agency’s Board of Professional Conduct often rolled back the punishments to suspensions and lesser penalties, and even forced the DEA to rehire the violators.

No accountability whatsoever within a federal agency? Where have we heard this before?

The findings in the Justice Department, USA Today and Huffington Post reviews highlight a culture of corruption within the DEA. It’s unrealistic to expect an entire workforce to be free of misconduct. But it’s reasonable to demand that problem employees are terminated.

This is more proof that the war on drugs is a counterproductive boondoggle of epic proportions.

To read more click here. 

Dallas Morning News: Time to Hold Border Patrol More Accountable

border patrol 3By Editorial Board
The Dallas Morning News

Thousands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers face a difficult mission as they work daily to halt illegal immigration and drug smuggling on America’s southern frontier. But there’s no excuse for the dozens of suspicious shootings and other abuses in recent years by minimally accountable border officers.

A June 29 Homeland Security Advisory Council report calls for greater accountability by adding hundreds of internal affairs investigators to Customs and Border Protection’s 44,000-member law-enforcement staff. The report contrasts the agency’s extraordinarily high number of arrests with those of similarly sized urban police forces and concludes that the agency lacks adequate checks and balances against abuse.

It’s disconcerting that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection, parent agency of the Border Patrol, has waited so long to institute reforms, especially considering persistent reports of corruption and misconduct among border law enforcers.

An internal investigation identified 67 Border Patrol shooting incidents in which 19 civilians died — including an unarmed Mexican boy killed during a rock-throwing incident at the El Paso border bridge in 2010.

Other notorious cases involved a youth’s shooting death as he stood on the Mexican side of the border fence near Nogales, Ariz., and a 19-year-old American shot dead while climbing from the U.S. side of the fence into Mexico. An agent on a Border Patrol boat in the Rio Grande killed a 37-year-old man who had been picnicking with his family on the Mexican riverside near Laredo in 2012.

In 64 such cases, the agents involved were absolved. Three cases remain under investigation.

A big part of the problem is that the border zone exists in a legal gray area where neither country’s laws fully apply, especially if an agent’s bullet crosses the border to hit a target on the other side.

A 2003 Homeland Security reorganization added to the problem by reducing the number of internal affairs investigators to zero, the report says. Currently, there are only 218 internal affairs investigators for a Customs and Border Protection workforce of 60,000, more than two-thirds of whom are law enforcers.

The advisory council report calls for a net increase of 350 investigators to address corruption and misconduct allegations in a timely fashion. It also calls for revised use-of-force guidelines emphasizing agents’ “overarching responsibility” for preserving human life.

Other recommendations call for the use of body cameras, limiting agents’ use of firearms against individuals throwing nonlethal items, such as rocks, and for ending use of firearms in car-chase scenarios.

These are common-sense measures that most urban police forces already employ. Border enforcement is serious business, but not so serious that innocents and nonlethal offenders deserve to pay for tighter security with their lives.

To read more click here. 

Border Patrol Slammed in Report for Corruption, Coverups, Excessive Force

Border PatrolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol is so entrenched in corruption and coverups that it would take nearly 350 criminal investigators to adequately investigate the wrongdoings, according to a sharply critical report by the Homeland Security Department.   

The Los Angeles Times reports Border Patrol agents are vulnerable to “systematic corruption” by drug cartels and other criminals and that investigations of internal wrongdoing are “chronically slow.”http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-patrol-20150630-story.html#page=1

Read the full report here. http://documents.latimes.com/homeland-security-advisory-council-interim-report/

Agents also are accused of using excessive force.

In fact, Border Patrol agents and customs officers are arrested at a rate that “far exceeds” other law enforcement agencies, according to the 29-page report.

“Until this is reversed, [Customs and Border Protection] remains vulnerable to corruption that threatens its effectiveness and national security,” warns the report, which was requested by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The report also advises Border Patrol to change its policy on using deadly force.

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.

To read more click here.

CBP, Border Patrol Fail to Deliver on Promise to Be Transparent About Shootings

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Customs and Border Protection pledged to become more transparent and accountable when it comes to agents using deadly force, but the USA Today reports that the agency is struggling to meet that promise.

At least 46 people – 16 of whom were Americans – have been killed by Border Patrol agents and CBP officers were on duty.

Then CBP’s acting internal affairs chief, Mark Alan Morgan, told reporters that he doubts any of the agents or officers were were disciplined in the deaths.

The USA Today rattles of a list of suspicious cases, including an unarmed teen shot in the back and agents shooting through a border fence in Mexico.

Despite the existence of a study on the issues, CBP kept it a secret for 15 months before it was leaked to the media.

“It just boggles my mind that DHS would hide this information,” said Wong, the retired CBP assistant deputy commissioner for internal affairs. “We’re not talking about terrorist activities or national security; we’re talking about things the American public should be aware of, should have access to. For them to say we can’t tell you how many people have been investigated for excessive use of force, well, I don’t understand the rationale.”

Other Stories of Interest

 

Arizona Republic Editorial: Don’t think Border Patrol Impacts You? Arizona Republic Spells Out Reasons To Care

 
 
By Editorial Board 
The Arizona Republic

You might shrug off concerns about how the Border Patrol operates. After all, it’s just the border. Migrants. Smugglers. Lawbreakers.

It’s not about you and me.

Well, yes it is.

We hold police to high standards to protect everyone’s civil rights. Exempting the nation’s largest police force undermines decades of work to increase the professionalism of your local cops. What’s more, the lethal power of the Border Patrol is not limited to migrants and smugglers.

They’ve killed citizens, too.

A lack of transparency and accountability raises red flags about human rights and public safety.

It raises questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of an agency that has grown rapidly in recent years and would double in size under the Senate’s immigration reform plan.

To read more click here.