Southern Border Region/Washington D.C. - More than 65 organizations from across the country united today on a letter to CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske that urges Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to equip their agents with body-worn cameras paired with privacy protections.
The letter brings together leading civil, human rights and faith-based organizations involved in the struggle for police reform and accountability with border organizations to make a unified call for greater transparency and accountability for our nation's largest law enforcement agency. Citing concerns about the agency's failure to move forward with a body camera program last month despite ongoing concerns regarding use of force incidents plaguing the agency, the letter urges Commissioner Kerlikowske to, "mandate cameras as a widely-recognized best practice for professional policing in the 21st century, one that is necessary to achieving your transparency and accountability agenda."
The letter continues:
"We have been monitoring CBP's progress on cameras since September 2013, when a border summit at the White House included a pledge to examine body-worn and other cameras. More than two years later, CBP has yet to deploy any body-worn recording devices. We are disappointed that CBP asked for even more time to study body-worn and dashboard cameras after having already undertaken a year-long three-phase feasibility study. It is equally disappointing that over the last two years CBP has yet to complete a comprehensive study of the environments in which these cameras would be used. As you know, public reaction to CBP's announcement was highly critical."
"The Los Angeles Times editorialized that CBP's additional period of study creates the perception that 'the nation's largest law enforcement agency . . . is moving so slowly to adopt this new technology that it appears not to be moving at all.' The San Diego Union-Tribune noted that '[i]f any agency could benefit from having body cameras be mandatory, it is one like the Border Patrol, which has exploded in size in recent years,' while the Arizona Republic criticized 'a disturbingly familiar approach from a secretive agency that has done little to dispel concerns about excessive use of force,' and the Las Cruces Sun-News opined that CBP's hesitations 'sound more like excuses than legitimate obstacles . . . . [Body-worn] cameras offer a critical level of transparency and accountability in an agency that could use large doses of both.'"
To read the full letter, click here.
These organizations and affected border families urge the White House to allocate resources in the President's budget to immediately direct Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to deploy body-worn cameras agency-wide, particularly in communities where Border Patrol routinely comes into contact with border residents.
Since 2010, CBP agents have killed at least 42 people in use of force incidents. CBP's failure to transparently investigate those incidents has called into question the use-of-force practices of the agency and their ability to maintain adequate oversight.
Two independent bodies, the Police Executive Research Forum and a Homeland Security Integrity Advisory Panel, concluded that CBP must take measures to prevent unnecessary loss of life and to strengthen internal affairs' ability to investigate incidents and hold agents accountable for wrongdoing. Advocates and media outlets have called for stronger leadership by CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske to adopt body-worn cameras and other professional policing standards at our nation's largest police force.
At a time of national reflection regarding police accountability, CBP should lead by example in adopting 21st century policing best practices to establish trust, transparency and accountability to border communities. Federal lawmakers and law-enforcement leaders have joined the chorus of voices urging CBP to take immediate steps towards greater transparency and accountability.