Was Removal of Border Patrol Abuse Investigator just a Cover-Up for a Failed System?
The removal of a senior Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official has raised questions about whether the decision demonstrated accountability from the embattled agency or an attempt to cover up its mistakes.
Border Patrol agents and other employees have been accused of misconduct, abuse and corruption. At least 28 people have been killed by CBP personnel since 2010, and an internal review of the agency’s shooting policy was kept under wraps for more than a year before coming to light.
In light of these troubles, CBP’s head of internal affairs for the past eight years, James F. Tomsheck, was moved to another assignment this week. Tomsheck’s supporters say he was made a scapegoat for a system that wasn’t interested in righting its wrongs.
“With very serious misconduct–borderline criminal activity–senior management often gave Border Patrol agents a slap on the wrist or did nothing at all,” James Wong, former deputy to Tomsheck, told The Center for Investigative Reporting. “Senior managers thwarted our ability to conduct complete investigations.”
Wong used a 2010 shooting as an example. Sergio Hernández Guereca, a 15-year-old Mexican citizen was killed near El Paso, Texas. The inspector general, senior Customs and Border Protection officials and others blocked the internal affairs office from learning significant information about the shooting, Wong said. The agent involved was not prosecuted.
According to records requested by the Los Angeles Times, at least 22 people were killed and many more injured by Border Patrol agents from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2013. Hundreds of complaints were filed charging misconduct by officers, including beatings and sexual abuse. Only 14 agents were disciplined during that period, according to the Times.
The agency is taking the unusual step of seeking outside help. CBP chief Gil Kerlikowske has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide a senior agent to act as the border agency’s head of internal affairs.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
Removal of Border Agency’s Internal Affairs Chief Raises Alarms (by Andrew Becker, Center for Investigative Reporting)
Border Agency Removes Its Own Chief Of Internal Affairs (by Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times)
Government Report Critical of Border Patrol Finally Released after 15 Months(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Border Patrol Used Dubious Tactics to Create Pretext to Justify Shootings; CBP Tried to Bury Scathing Report (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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