U.S. Customs and Border Protection should add 350 criminal investigators to target internal corruption and illegal abuse of migrants, according to a report that reveals glaring problems in the agencies that police the nation’s borders.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, should add 350 criminal investigators to target internal corruption and illegal abuse of migrants, according to a homeland-security report that reveals glaring problems in the agencies that police the nation’s borders.
The review, which was requested by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, also calls for stronger rules to prohibit Border Patrol agents from shooting people who are unarmed or who don’t present a deadly threat.
The report by the Integrity Advisory Panel is the latest to slam the Border Patrol for lack of accountability for hundreds of shootings by agents on the southwest border, including at least 19 deaths since 2010.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that some Border Patrol agents stepped in front of cars to justify shooting at drivers, and had opened fire on people throwing rocks from across the border in Mexico when agents could have instead moved out of harm’s way.
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But the report also spotlights high levels of corruption in the border agencies. It says arrests of border agents and officers “far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other law enforcement agencies.”
Without action, it warns, “pockets of corruption could fester within (Customs and Border Protection), potentially for years.”
William Bratton, the former LAPD chief who now is New York City Police Commissioner, and former Drug Enforcement Administration head Karen Tandy, led the eight-member independent panel that produced the 29-page report after scrutinizing Border Patrol records and interviewing officials.
The panel recommended that Customs and Border Protection increase its roster of about 200 full-time criminal investigators at internal affairs to 550, an increase of 175 percent, to beef up investigations of corruption and abuse.
The internal-affairs office is “woefully understaffed,” Tandy, who headed the DEA from 2003 to 2007, said Monday while presenting the panel’s recommendations to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. The council, which is chaired by former FBI and CIA director William Webster, voted unanimously Monday evening to send the report to Johnson, the homeland security chief.
Customs and Border Protection is the largest police force in the country by far, but the internal-affairs office is a fraction the size of other major law-enforcement entities.
The agency employs about 60,000 people, including 44,000 armed officers who patrol the borders and guard border crossings. By comparison, the New York Police Department has 34,500 sworn officers and more than 500 officers assigned to internal affairs, according to the report.
Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief and federal drug czar who was named commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year, has improved policies and training for when agents can use deadly force, the panel said, but more needs to be done.
The agency’s use-of-force policy should be rewritten to include an opening statement that says, “CBP values human life and the dignity of every person and that the primary duty of every CBP officer/agent is the preservation of human life,” according to the report.
The Border Patrol also should adopt clearer restrictions on when agents can fire their weapons.
Rules issued last year required agents to seek cover or move back, when possible, from people throwing rocks. The rules urged agents to seek alternatives to opening fire, following guidelines used by most domestic police departments.
But the review panel said those changes don’t go far enough.
Agents and officers should be expressly prohibited from firing at moving vehicles unless the occupants of the vehicle and not the vehicle itself present a mortal threat, the panel said.
Agents should be prohibited from opening fire if bystanders are in danger of being struck by bullets. The panel also called for a stricter prohibition on deadly force against people throwing objects at agents.