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Tag: CBP

Border Patrol Agents Cleared of Wrongdoing After 4 Shootings

Border PatrolBy Steve Neavling

Border Patrol officials have concluded that agents acted properly while opening fire while on duty on four different occasions, The Los Angeles Times reports. 

An internal panel for Customs and Border Protection reviewed the cases after concerns about a pattern of agents using deadline force.

CBP also is investigating 14 other shootings.

In one of the cases where agents were found to have acted properly, they repeatedly fired at the engine of a boat smuggling immigrants near Solana Beach in San Diego County in June 2015.

After the shooting, the boat crashed with the agent’s boat and capsized. One woman drowned.

Two other cases involve agents opening fire on people throwing rocks at them.

In the fourth shooting, an agent shot a suspect who was clutching a rifle and fleeing local police.

Other Stories of Interest

Homeland Security Wants Permission to Ask Travelers for Social Media Accounts

passport1By Steve Neavling

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection may ask travelers for more than their passports as America looks to tighten its vetting process.

CBP submitted a proposal that would enable official to requests that travelers voluntarily disclose their social media account information, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. 

“It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information,” the CPB said in the proposal.

Citizens from 38 countries are allowed to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism for no longer than 90 days without a visa.

The social media information would help officials assess “potential risks to national security,” Homeland Security said.

Border Patrol Mechanic to Be Sentenced for Stealing Parts from CBP Vehicles

Border PatrolBy Steve Neavling

A Customs and Border Protect mechanic who sold parts from Border Patrol vehicles on eBay is scheduled to be sentenced soon.

Herold Demes, who worked for Border Patrol in Tucson, was indicted by a grand jury last month on a theft charge, reports. 

Among the parts Demes sold were two driver-side airbags, a fuel pump and seat belt tensioner.

Demes admitted in federal court that he sold the parts.

Prosecutors will ask a judge to impose a maximum six-month sentence and order restitution of $2,400.

Slate: Body Cameras Not Enough to Bring Transparency to Border Patrol

Border PatrolBy Bryce Clayton Newell

In November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Richard Gil Kerlikowske announced that the agency would expand its body-worn camera deployment in the coming months, using the cameras in “law enforcement operations such as checkpoints, vessel boarding and interdictions, training environments, and outbound operations at ports of entry.” This is a modest expansion to the border control agency’s ongoing pilot program, and it comes in spite of an internal evaluation by the agency’s Body-Worn Camera Working Group recommending caution because, among other reasons, the cameras might distract officers, lower officer morale, and fail to work in the harsh climate that border agents work in along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Adopting body-worn cameras as part of a larger project to make the agency more transparent and accountable is potentially a step in the right direction. But without the implementation of proper policies for camera use and public disclosure of footage, it won’t do much to overcome the agency’s historical lack of transparency and its general resistance to releasing video footage to the public. Unless CBP commits to greater transparency and external oversight as part of its body-worn camera program, the cameras may become just another tool of government surveillance wielded by the state without adequate oversight.

In an independent review of agency response to cases of alleged abuse in 2013, investigators found that CBP agents have “deliberately stepped in the path of cars … to justify shooting at the drivers” and have repeatedly fired their weapons through the border fence at Mexican nationals on Mexican soil. (The review was commissioned by CBP, but the agency has tried to keep it from coming to light.) Another investigation found that across 42 agent-involved killings between 2005 and 2013, there has not been a single case in which an officer is “publicly known to have faced consequences.”

At the same time, CBP has also frequently withheld video evidence of agent-involved shootings, even in high-profile cases like the 2012 shooting of José Antonio Elena Rodriguez. In August 2015, a federal judge also sanctioned the agency for destroying video evidence that it was required to preserve during an ongoing civil rights lawsuit. Agent Lonnie Ray Swartz, the officer involved in the case of José Antonio, has recently become the first agent ever charged with murder for shooting a Mexican national through the border fence. However, CBP and the U.S. Justice Department have continually refused to release existing video of the incident to the public. Swartz repeatedly fired his weapon through the fence, hitting 16-year-old José Antonio 10 times, including eight times in the back (and possibly reloading in the process) as the youth was walking away from the officer, supposedly on his way home from a basketball game. Swartz claims it was self-defense.

To read more, click here. 

Border Patrol Agents Find 2,500 Pounds of Marijuana Stuffed inside Carrots

Fake carrots stuffed with marijuana, via CBP.

Fake carrots stuffed with marijuana, via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents found 2,500 pounds of marijuana stuffed inside fake carrots that were being hauled across the Mexico border in Texas, reports. 

A drug-sniffing dog detected marijuana in a tractor-trailer that was crossing the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.

Border Patrol agents found the fake carrots that were mixed with real carrots.

The estimated value of the pot was $499,000, Customs and Border Protections said.

“Once again, drug smuggling organizations have demonstrated their creativity in attempting to smuggle large quantities of narcotics across the U.S./Mexico border,” Port Director Efrain Solis Jr. said in the news release. “Our officers are always ready to meet those challenges and remain vigilant towards any type of illicit activities.”

Los Angeles Times: Border Patrol Appears to Be Using Stalling Tactics with Body Cameras

Border Patrol agents reads the Miranda rights to a Mexican national arrested for transporting drugs.By Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times

To assure the public of their commitment to transparency and accountability, many law enforcement agencies across the country — including the Los Angeles Police Department — 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 R. 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, including the LAPD, 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 last 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. Today, many police chiefs, civil rights groups and even the president are praising body cameras as an essential law enforcement tool that makes everyone safer.

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. 

Border Patrol: Agents Will Eventually Wear Body Cameras

Border Patrol agents reads the Miranda rights to a Mexican national arrested for transporting drugs.By Steve Neavling

Despite a year-long review that recommended against Border Patrol wearing body cameras, the head of CBP said the goal is to eventually employ the technology in the field, the Arizona Republic reports. 

The CBP commissioner said the cameras must withstand long hours in often harsh environments.

“We will work through it both from a technological stand point and a negotiation standpoint, but the goal is to employ body cameras where they would be most useful and helpful,” CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

One obstacle is the expected resistance from labor unions representing Border Patrol agents.

The news comes after a review released last week suggested the body cameras that were tested were not suitable for use by Border Patrol agents.

It’s not yet clear when the cameras would be employed.

“Let me assure you, it won’t be years and any opposition that is out there can be overcome and then we will move forward with this,” Kerlikowske said.

Other Stories of Interest

Internal Review by Border Patrol Rejects Body Cameras for Agents

Border Patrol agents reads the Miranda rights to a Mexican national arrested for transporting drugs.By Steve Neavling

Even as Border Patrol faces increased scrutiny for using excessive force along the U.S.-Mexico border, CBP concluded that body cameras aren’t needed for agents, MSNBC reports. 

The yearlong internal review found that body cameras would be too costly, sink agent morale and make law enforcement more ineffective.

The review was prompted by complaints of excessive force – even deadly force – by Border Patrol agents.

The conclusions drawn in the view are “dated” and don’t “reflect the agency’s deliberations over the past months or conclusions of CBP leadership, the agency said in a statement.

More than 20,000 agents patrol the U.S. border, which would make it the largest law enforcement agency in the nation to use body cameras.

“Body-worn cameras have the potential to provide huge benefits for Customs and Border Protection and the public,” said Jacinta Ma, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Forum. “As the largest law enforcement agency in the country, CBP has an opportunity to step up.”