U.S. Customs and Border Protection Releases Revised Use of Force Policies

Facing pressure from immigrant advocates and seeking to fulfill a commitment to “transparency,” Customs and Border Protection Friday released a consultant review of its officers’ use of force and a revised Use of Force Policy handbook.

“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,” CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said.

According to CBP, the handbook revisions used "most" of the recommendations from the commissioned Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) review, which encouraged placing more limits on the use of force based on a review of 67 use of force incidents from January 2010 through October 2012, as well as an Inspector General review.

The changes to the handbook, CBP said, include more training in the “use of safe tactics” and requiring officers to carry “less lethal devices” based on operational needs. The agency further announced that it is revamping its training programs to offer agents a more realistic experience.

PERF completed its use of force review and recommendations last February, but until Friday CBP had refused to release the report.

Interested parties got an early taste of it, however, when the Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of the PERF report and published some of the findings this February.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force CBP to release the report.

“The revised policies issued today are a step in the right direction. But on their own, they will not be enough. CBP should take further steps to ensure accountability and transparency,” ACLU policy analyst Ruthie Epstein said, going on to advocate CBP officers be suited with cameras for maximum transparency.


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