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Border Patrol to Change Use-of-Force Policy

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The Border Patrol and its policies allowing for the excessive use of force came under renewed scrutiny last week, with the release of a DHS inspector general report investigating 67 cases that resulted in 19 deaths.  The report found, among other things, evidence of Border Patrol agents deliberately stepping in front of cars in order to justify shooting at drivers, and firing lethal weapons in response to people throwing rocks.

In response to the outcry of criticism, Customs and Border Protection said today that it will restructure its basic training program and reform its use-of-force policy so that officers “shall use only the force that is objectively reasonable to affect an arrest, while protecting the life of the agent, officer, or others.”

Key words: “Excessive force is strictly prohibited.”  Here’s more from PBS:

Deadly force is only permittable when there is “reasonable belief that the subject “poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury” to them or another person, under the new policy.

The agency said it is working to overhaul its basic-training curriculum to help agents better deal with potentially dangerous situations, including adding several days of scenario-based use of force training. It’s building new training venues with mock border fences, and considering simulating real-life scenarios to challenge recruits.

Customs and Border Protection also said that it will begin a pilot program that uses video cameras mounted in patrol cars and or on agents’ lapels, a reform advocated by the ACLU to reduce the use of force, but one that would also protect agents from false allegations. A 2012 study of Rialto, Calif. police officers by the Police Foundation, a research group,documented twice as many incidents of use of force when officers weren’t wearing cameras.

The change is big news — but how the reforms are implemented will be key: