Rights advocates press for accountability and body-worn cameras to address use-of-force
Washington D.C./Southern Border Region - Today, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) released its Use of Force Statistics for the Fiscal Year of 2015-2016.
Although the report, which only highlights on-duty incidents, suggests that use-of-force incidents declined by more than 26 percent in the Fiscal Year 2015, it fails to provide information on whether use of force was justified. Furthermore, the agency did not reveal whether or not CBP Agents were held accountable when excessive use of force was used.
The release of use-of-force data on a regular basis is a small step towards transparency, yet a meaningful and critical step that remains to be taken to not only address the lack of transparency, but to work towards the preservation of human life is to equip all agents with body-worn cameras. On that note, CBP today asked the private sector for suggestions on camera systems for CBP agents.
Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and Human Rights Director at Alliance San Diego, states the following:
"Border communities have consistently urged CBP to release use-of-force stats on a monthly basis and to break down use-of-force incidents by sector. We commend Commissioner Kerlikowske's decision to release statistics on use-of-force incidents. It is a step towards greater transparency for CBP. However, meaningful transparency in the form of body-worn cameras must be implemented and accompanied with robust accountability mechanisms in order to address the culture of impunity that has plagued CBP."
In 2015, CBP released findings demonstrating what they alleged to be a reduction in use-of-force since 2011. While the information shared was welcomed by border rights advocates, many questions remained. The findings lacked transparency regarding pending disciplinary action or investigations and failed to assuage border residents' concerns that CBP culture values military-style policing over de-escalation and preservation of human life.
Since January 2010, almost 50 individuals have died as a result of an encounter with CBP officials. At least 33 deaths resulted from the use of lethal force. Independent bodies including the Police Executive Research Forum and a Homeland Security Integrity Advisory Panel have concluded that the agency must take measures to prevent the loss of life and to build the infrastructure to investigate incidents and hold agents accountable for any wrongdoing.
Equipping agents with body-worn cameras has been included as part of the recommendations to uphold the nation's largest law enforcement agency to professional policing standards.
Critical reforms are needed to effectively rebuild public confidence in the agency and ensure that CBP agents and officers respect the human and civil rights of all individuals.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) brings together more than 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.
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