— -- America’s largest law enforcement agency has cut use of force incidents by nearly 40 percent since a new commissioner was appointed early in 2014.
Violent encounters with both immigrants and American citizens were down to 768 in fiscal year 2015 (October 2014 to September 2015) from 1,215 in fiscal 2013 (October 2012 to September 2013).
The agency, which employs more than 60,000 border patrol agents and customs officers, has been criticized for transparency and enforcement abuse. An analysis by the Arizona Republic cited 46 deaths at the hands of CBP agents since 2005, including 15 Americans.
The new commissioner, Gil Kerlikowske, came into office on March 7, 2014, promising to change the culture, ordering limits on when agents can use their weapons and asking for more accountability when civilians are shot. He also created an Integrity Advisory Panel to investigate employees for criminal misconduct.
“The steps we have taken over the past year – implementing policy changes, revamping our training, standing up a new review process, and expediting the disclosure of basic incident information to the public -- are critical to achieving our mission and ensuring the trust of the American people,” Kerlikowske said in a statement, citing a 26 percent reduction in use of force just from the last fiscal year.
“This reduction is especially significant, considering that assaults against agents and officers have essentially remained steady.”
In 2014, there were 390 assaults on agents, according to CBP; whereas in 2014 there were 373 and 2013 there were 468.
“I am encouraged by the progress and dedication that CBP officers and agents have shown this year,” he said. “ However, there is always more that can be done, and we remain committed to strengthening our agency.”
CBP describes use of force as including “a physical restraint, the use of an alternative device or the application of lethal force.”