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Audit Finds Major Issues In CBP’s Use Of Force Policy

Evening Edition

Aired 9/18/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

Shawn Moran, Vice President, National Border Patrol Council

Mitra Ebadolahi, ACLU Border Litigation Attorney

Transcript

Federal auditors have completed an analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's use of force policies. The audit shows some major problems within the agency that officials say they're trying to correct.

Among its findings, the U.S. Office of Inspector General for the Homeland Security Department discovered that some agents and officers of the federal border agencies did not understand the use of force policies or when to use them. That surprised many people inside and outside the agency.

Shawn Moran is vice president of the Border Patrol's national union.

"I was surprised by that as well. That's one of the areas where the agency does a good job of letting agents know what their options are when it comes to use of force. This is something that is basically beaten into us in the academy," he said.

The OIG was unable to pinpoint how many excessive use of force allegations have been filed against CBP agents. The agency's own database doesn't collect the data in any way that allows complaints to be tracked.

The OIG was able to determine how many times agents reacted to rocks hurled at them from the Mexican side of the border. In fiscal year 2012, there were 185 rock throwing assaults. Of those, agents did not use force to respond in 65 percent. They shot their weapons back at assailants in 12 percent and used less-than-lethal force in 23 percent of the cases.

Rock throwings have proven to be a contentious issue along the Southwest border. Border agents have killed 17 people and claimed self-defense in nearly every case. Several of those involved people hurling rocks at agents from across the border.

Last month, the FBI cleared Border Patrol agents in two killings along the Arizona border. The FBI deemed that the agents were justified because the victim and others involved were hurling rocks at them.

James Lyall is a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said that while the report identifies some problems, like not knowing how many complaints exist, it leaves out others.

"It doesn't make any mention of greater transparency or accountability or discipline for agents who do abuse their authority," he said.

The use of force policy for border agents came into question last year after a Mexican man, Anastasio Hernandez, died in their custody in 2010 after the agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry used a Taser to subdue him. After that, members of Congress asked the Inspector General to investigate CBP's policy.

A CBP spokeswoman said the agency is adding six days of use of force training and creating simulations to better train agents. Among the recommendations, a mock border wall to train agents on a real life border encounter. However, CBP ran out of funding before the wall was built.

Comments

Avatar image for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | September 18, 2013 at 11:20 p.m. ― 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Ever notice how evil masterminds are always bald?
http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/24/death_on_the_border_shocking_video

All authorities of the state should be required to wear body cameras when on duty.

Drones should be monitoring these beasts with infrared when they walk the border.

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Avatar image for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 29, 2013 at 4:05 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

If they want to chuck rocks. Let the agents throw lead. "Beasts" really? Those beasts keep bad people away. They also help some good people who might die without water. Whos gonna pay for that many cameras? And since when is it ok to throw rocks at an agent?

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 29, 2013 at 8:07 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

sdreefer21,

You probably are unaware of the fact that the CBP is letting drug-sniffing dogs loose on pedestrians at both San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. How calming! The CBP needs to stop pretending they're in Afghanistan. They seem to have trouble differentiating between the video games used for training and real-life. Thank you Homeland Security grants! You've made us sooooo much safer.

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 29, 2013 at 8:44 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

DLR, is there some reason you think pedestrians could not be carrying drugs?

You are right that Mexico and Afghanistan are different situations requiring different methods of enforcement, but it is naive to think that the danger is absent along our southern border and that a large portion of that danger is associated with the very thing those dogs are trained to find. q.v.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_in_the_War_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%93present)

and

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/11/27/mexico-murders-at-over-101000-in-past-6-years-report-says/

I'll add an actually sincere thank you to the border patrol. I do appreciate the difficult work you are doing and would not accept being attacked with thrown rocks either.

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 29, 2013 at 8:57 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Benz,

Not all pedestrians crossing the border carry drugs, but the fact that some do makes the dogs necessary. Not all border patrolmen are jack-booted thugs, but the fact that some are makes the cameras necessary. From your perspective, letting dogs loose on pedestrians BEFORE there is reasonable suspicion is okay. 5-year-old kids wearing shorts who have no backpacks or luggage?!?!

As always, thanks for the insight on a topic with which you have no intimate experience. Go down there and take a look. Better yet, you should actually cross the border.

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Avatar image for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 29, 2013 at 2:27 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Dlr i cross the border frequently. My spouse is from mex. It id far more important to me that we screen people than not. It seems you are anti police/agents. They are not playing video games the are doing a dangerous job with only one shot at it. Their lives should always be our first priority.

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 29, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

No one is saying there shouldn't be screenings. The topic is excessive force by the CBP, which is a problem.

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 30, 2013 at 7:43 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

We seem to be talking past each other. I'm not talking about attack dogs at all. I am referring to sensors, not weapons. Of course not all pedestrians are carrying illegal drugs. If they were we would (presumably) refuse all pedestrians entry. The key to determining carriers from non-carries is screening with a good sensor, hence the dogs. Is there a reason you believe being sniffed by a dog is harmful?
Further, please let me describe my own perspective. If you have a question on it go ahead and ask, but I consider it rude to tell someone else what they think.

I have no reason to want to cross that border. The last time I was down in TJ some guy tried to sell (rent?) me his (purported) daughter. No thank you. It is difficult for me to imagine a reason I would want to return.

Can you be specific on which cases you consider problematic and what you suggest be done about each specific case? Or, for brevity, why not start with one?

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 30, 2013 at 9:50 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

From your perspective, letting dogs loose on pedestrians BEFORE there is reasonable suspicion is okay. 5-year-old kids wearing shorts who have no backpacks or luggage?!?!

Already cited. Not clear enough? The last time I crossed the border, I saw an overzealous dog sniffing young children in shorts and elderly women. Then, I saw the dog lunge at a reasonably still man's foot. To which the insensitive handler/agent responded, "you shouldn't move at all because they don't like that." My suggestion is for the CBP to apply common sense and lay off the wanna' be soldier act.

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 30, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Recommending that you don't make sudden moves while being sniffed by a dog should not be a contentious issue. That is just common sense.
Obviously I didn't see what you are referring to, but I don't see in your description of it anything that alarms me. Was someone bitten? What am I missing?

Having a dog sniff everyone in line is not a bad idea. It is the world we live in. You have to take off your shoes at the airport too.

I would like the screeners to be able to apply common sense too, but if they do, then they are likely to be accused of profiling. Really, that should be the policy, but we are too afraid of not being PC to actually hunt where the deer are.

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Avatar image for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 30, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Overzealous dog? That's a human quality. Kids smuggle drugs, bombs, money. The bad guys don't care what vehicle they use. Sometimes you have to break a few legs to remind the bad guys they should not mess with us. By the way reasonable suspicion is not needed to screen people. There is no search of private property when a dog is smelling the air. If he alerts then there is reasonable cause to search and detain.

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 30, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The bad guys don't care what vehicle they use. Sometimes you have to break a few legs to remind the bad guys they should not mess with us.

Having a dog sniff everyone in line is not a bad idea. It is the world we live in.

Did dogs sniff you guys while you were in line at the Teg Nugent concert?

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 30, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I've never been to a Teg Nugent concert, but were a dog to sniff me it would not be cause for concern. Is there a point to your question?

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Avatar image for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 30, 2013 at 12:21 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

We are under attack from men who afraid to do harm unto the bad guys. The dogs serve two purposes intimidation and screening. If they sniff a five year old and growl at another then they are doing their job. If the agent is stern and or rude. He is doing his job. He us an authority figure; not a coddler. The ted nugeny concert was awesome. It was comforting to see other men not affected by the pussification of 'merica.

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | September 30, 2013 at 1:02 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Lame answer, Benz. SDReefer's response was so friggin' awesome that I choked on my Levi Garrett and almost dropped my Winchester. Almost.

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 30, 2013 at 1:25 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I have no idea what you are talking about. Do you have something productive to add to the discussion?

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Avatar image for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | October 1, 2013 at 11:35 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Unfortunately, my brother will travel to Tijuana to get dental surgery next week. I say unfortunately, because it took us 2 hours and thirty minutes to get back across the border last time.

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Avatar image for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 1, 2013 at 10:37 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

"As always, thanks for the insight on a topic with which you have no intimate experience. Go down there and take a look. Better yet, you should actually cross the border."

Right, Rick, because Benzzz doesn't go down there so how would he even know? In all my years going there since I was about 25 or 26, I've NEVER been offered anyone's daughter!

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Avatar image for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 1, 2013 at 10:39 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

What if a person has cynophobia?

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Avatar image for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | October 3, 2013 at 6:50 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Mission,

I've been thinking about this. Benz is absolutely correct to judge an entire country and culture on one experience he had on that country's northwestern border (which may or may not have actually happened. Maybe we just can't see the "sisters for sale" in between the bootleg Batman piggy banks and Aztec calendars.)

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Avatar image for user 'benz72'

benz72 | October 3, 2013 at 8:53 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

DLR, you misinterpret my statement.
I have no need to go to TJ. I related one bad experience there but that does not mean I think all of Mexico is like that. Accupolco, Puerta Vallerta and Cabo San Lucas were a lot of fun and I didn't have any issues there. I still don't need to go to TJ, just like I don't need to go to Detroit or St. Louis, Oakland or Memphis (the 4 US cities with the highest violent crime rates in 2011) q.v. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_S...

BTW, San Diego is 65th, right after Santa Ana.

What is it you can find in TJ that isn't available on this side?

MA, I'm glad you didn't see that. It wasn't a good experience. If a cynophobe knows he is going into an area searched by dogs he would be wise to request a human pat down search instead. Did the report address phobias? Is there an established procedure for frisk searches in lieu of sniffing dogs? That would be interesting information to have.

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