At least 42 people have lost their lives because of deadly attacks by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers since 2005. Of these 42 individuals, approximately 13 were United States citizens. Most of these deaths occurred along the southwest border and many of those happened right here in Arizona.
While most people can agree that there are times when deadly force is justified, it seems that the bulk of these deaths were not the result of that type of circumstance. In fact, many have been deemed to be quite suspicious.
CBP personnel alleges that officers who decide to use excessive force are punished. However, names of officers who choose to use excessive force are never publicized - neither are the methods CBP employs to punish the officers. The only information ever given to the public is that the unnamed officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Here's what we do know: in the last four years, there have been 24 border-related deaths. Of those 24, eight were “legitimized” by stating that the victims had brought the deadly force upon themselves because they had thrown rocks at CBP officers. CBP deems rocks to be deadly weapons. This is a policy even though rocks rarely have caused officer injuries.
In the past few years, there have been more instances where video evidence has been offered that shows the altercation and how it was originally provoked - whether it be brought upon by the victim or the CBP officer. Along with video evidence, witnesses and in some cases, even other law enforcement officers, have contradicted the agents' alleged need for using deadly force.
Of course, CBP officers do face dangers. In the last nine years, 22 agents have died in the course of duty. Most of these deaths resulted from vehicle or training accidents. However, four died after having conflict with an aggressor. At least one case involved CBP officers firing on each other.
Agencies involved with these issues are hesitant to speak out about the deaths and the issues surrounding excessive force. CBP reports are often found to be rather incomplete because of redactions and revisions. Those that have reviewed the reports have stated these edits and the basic lack of information have led to the reports being “so incomplete that it's impossible to determine what happened.”
A recent report issued by the Office of Inspector General of Homeland Security lead to the realization that many current CBP officers just simply do not understand use-of-force policies. Furthermore, CBP does not require officers to be trained in long-range less-lethal devices. While the information and education is available, it is only optional.
This is yet another example of the problems surrounding current policies and procedures by CBP and numerous other agencies. These agencies claim they are employing fair and humane methods in order to deal with non-citizens who enter into the United States without inspection, but the results show something completely different.
The lack of transparency from the officers and other personnel with CBP is just another indication that reform is necessary. While it seems fairly certain that the immigration reform bill will not be passed in D.C. this year, many hope that 2014 will bring about these much needed changes.
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