Border patrol releases critical report on use of force by agents

BY Kayla Ruble  May 31, 2014 at 12:03 PM EST
The U.S. border fence between Mexico and Nogales, Ariz.  Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The U.S. border fence between Mexico and Nogales, Ariz. Credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

On Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol released both a critical report on the use of force by its agents along the Mexican border and a revised use of force policy handbook prohibiting excessive force.

This is the first time CPB has revised the handbook since 2010, with the updates based on third party recommendations. Just last year the agency refused to update the policy guide, but its new commissioner has emphasized the need for greater transparency

“This release and, most importantly, the policy and training changes they represent are the beginning of a continuous review of our responsibility to only use force when it is necessary to protect people,” Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in a statement.

Adopting panel suggestions, the 112-page handbook now states: “Excessive force is strictly prohibited.” Additionally, new guidelines tell agents they should avoid shooting at moving vehicles or in response to thrown objects unless there is a threat of serious injury or death.

The policy updates would also institute further safe tactic training, while also requiring agents to carry less-lethal weapons such as pepper spray and tasers. CPB’s basic training curriculum will be revised as well.

This change in tone comes after Kerlikowske’s recent visit to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas where detention facilities and other services have become overwhelmed with the number of undocumented border crossings.

There are more than 21,000 agents monitoring US borders including the 2,000 mile long southern border with Mexico which has seen an increase in activity this year. In 2014 almost 160,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended while crossing into the US, up 70 percent compared to the same period last year.