Border Patrol must have body cameras

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The recently published editorial “Border Patrol resistant to body cameras,” rightly concluded that U.S. Custom and Border Protections (CBP), which includes Border Patrol, should be held to the same standards of accountability and transparency as local police. We agree and have urged CBP to implement body-worn cameras with privacy protections since October 2012.

Since January 2010, CBP — the largest law enforcement agency in the country — hasclaimed the lives of at least 42 people without consequence. Many of those killed by Border Patrol were unarmed civilians, at least 18 were U.S. citizens and six were standing in Mexico, like teens Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca or Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Some of the worst CBP uses of force were recorded by passerby eyewitnesses, including the brutal beating of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas. Video shows dozens of CBP officers surrounded him while he was shackled by the hands and feet, beaten and Tased into a coma. Body-worn cameras would undoubtedly have captured more abusive conduct.

In this context, CBP has not earned any benefit of the doubt in their hesitance to body-worn camera deployment. Commissioner Kerlikowske’s announcement of another incremental stage of body-worn-camera testing is alarmingly unequal to the task and comes two years after CBP announced plans to test camera technologies.

Why does CBP think they get to play by different rules than police?

The agency’s deep accountability crisis offends American values of equality, fairness and justice. Border Patrol agents should be held responsible to adhere to the same 21st century policing practices that the Obama Administration urges of local law enforcement. Without stronger leadership from the Administration and Commissioner Kerlikowske, their tenure will end as it began with CBP abuses hidden from public view.

Vicki B. Gaubeca,

Director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights and co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

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