Border Patrol reiterates restrictions on use of deadly force

Following criticisms that Border Patrol agents are too trigger-happy, the agency's chief sent an internal memo reminding agents of official policies. Since 2010, 10 people have been killed in incidents involving rock-throwing at Border Patrol agents.

The federal government on Friday released the U.S. Border Patrol's use-of-force policies while the agency's chief issued a directive that reiterates how personnel should respond to threats amid mounting criticism of excessive force and lack of transparency.

Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher, in a memorandum to all agency personnel, reminded agents that the "level of force applied must reflect the totality of the circumstances surrounding each situation."

Immigrant rights groups have complained that Border Patrol agents are too trigger-happy in responding to people who throw rocks at them along the border with Mexico, often to distract agents from smugglers sneaking drugs into the U.S.

Fisher said that since 2010, agents have been assaulted with rocks 1,713 times, with deadly forced being used in 43 instances resulting in 10 deaths.

While Border Patrol policy has always held that agents may use deadly force if there is a reasonable threat of imminent death or serious injury, Fisher's directive Friday reiterates that they shouldn't fire their weapons unless absolutely necessary.

The same policy was reiterated for incidents involving moving vehicles, reminding agents that they shouldn't place themselves in the path of cars, creating a scenario where they would be forced to discharge their weapons.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security also released use-of-force policies for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, something it had long refused to do.

Chris Rickerd, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, said the memorandum from Fisher regarding use of force "leaves much to be desired."

"It is largely a restatement of existing policy, which is a shame because clearly existing policy isn't working," Rickerd said.

The National Border Patrol Council, the union for agents, agreed that the memorandum from Fisher doesn't change long-standing policy that allows agents to use deadly force when necessary, but noted they have dangerous jobs and rely on their training and instincts when confronted with threats.

"We believe it's all a reiteration of current policy and encourages agents to look for alternatives if available but not restricting them from being able to use force, if necessary," said Shawn Moran, the group's vice president.

In a statement Friday, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Eduardo Medina Mora, commended Fisher's directive and the release of use-of-force policies as "a step toward transparency and a signal of openness."

The Police Executive Research Forum led a government-commissioned review on Border Patrol's use of force and recommended a ban on shooting rock throwers and assailants in vehicles. The agency rejected the recommendations, which Fisher described to The Associated Press as "very restrictive."

The Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of the report, which concluded that "that some border agents stood in front of moving vehicles as a pretext to open fire and that agents could have moved away from rock throwers instead of shooting at them."

Simply put, however, Moran said, "We want to make sure our agents don't hesitate and protect themselves when justified."

Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat In San Diego contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.