Border Patrol Internal Report Suggests Relaxing Deadly-Force Policies

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A review from law enforcement experts initiated by the Border Patrol was released to The Los Angeles Times after the agency tried to keep it under wraps, even from oversight committees in the House and Senate. The report was commissioned to examine the use of deadly force by Border Patrol agents and whether they “consistently and thoroughly” review those incidents.

One of the most controversial findings of the report is a suggested change to the policy currently in place — which is vague at best — that allows agents to use deadly force against drivers of vehicles. According to the report, “some border agents stood in front of a vehicle as a pretext to open fire.”

Shawn P. Moran, vice president of the Border Patrol union, told the Times that the agency was correct in allowing agents broad latitude for when to open fire. He suggested that had the Border Patrol accepted the restrictive recommendations, there would be more “assaults where vehicles try to run down agents because they know there would be no repercussions.” Although, one would imagine that deliberately running down an agent with a vehicle would fall into the “trying to kill them” category.

Also examined was the use of deadly force against people who throw rocks from the Mexican side of the border at agents on the U.S. side or in patrol boats on the Rio Grande. The problem with this is that some agents seem to ignore rock-throwers, while others open fire on them. At the very least, the report contends, there should be some consistency in terms of agents’ response.

President Barack Obama’s nominee to head up the Border Patrol, Gil Kerlikowske, is a veteran police officer who formerly served as police chief in Seattle. He told the the Times that he’d “never served in a law enforcement agency that did not make its use-of-force policies public.” His nomination has not yet been brought up for a vote in the Senate.