Few Consequences for Border Patrol Agents Using Deadly Force

Thursday, December 19, 2013
Mexican father at the casket of son lilled by U.S. Border Patrol (photo:Alejandro Bringas, Reuters)

Border Patrol officers have been criticized by advocacy groups for using deadly force against illegal immigrants along the Mexican border, prompting the Arizona Republic to examine whether officers have been disciplined for such incidents.


The newspaper concluded that members of the Border Patrol who use deadly force rarely are punished, even when the shootings were very questionable.


Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have killed at least 42 people, including at least 13 Americans, since 2005. In none of these instances was the officer publicly known to have faced consequences from any government agency or court.


When the newspaper contacted federal officials to learn if anyone was disciplined following the deaths, the agencies involved refused to say. They also refused to reveal the names of agents who use deadly force or even release their policies regarding such actions.


“Internal discipline is a black hole. There have been no publicly disclosed repercussions—even when, as has happened at least three times, agents shot unarmed teenagers in the back,” Bob Ortega and Rob O'Dell wrote for the Arizona Republic. “That appearance of a lack of accountability has been fed by a culture of secrecy about agents’ use of deadly force,” they added.


Of the 24 people killed by Border Patrol agents in the last four years, eight were shot for throwing rocks, which the agency considers grounds for using lethal force.


A government-commissioned study by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that advises law enforcement agencies, recommended this year that the Border Patrol cease using deadly force in response to rock-throwers. But CBP, which oversees the Border Patrol, rejected the recommendation, calling it too restrictive to adopt.


The Arizona Republic’s extensive investigation involved the examination of more than 12,000 documents relating to nearly 1,600 use-of-force cases by the CBP and Border Patrol between 2010 and 2012. It also reviewed additional data pertaining to such cases dating back to 2005, and filed more than 120 Freedom of Information Act and public-records requests with six federal agencies or departments and seven states.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Deadly Border Agent Incidents Cloaked in Silence (by Bob Ortega and Rob O'Dell, Arizona Republic)

Border Patrol Rejects Government-Commissioned Advice to Stop Shooting Rock Throwers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)          

10 Lawsuits Filed against Border Patrol for Abuse (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Border Patrol Agents Kill 27-Year Resident of U.S. and 15-Year-Old Boy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)        


Johnny Citizen 8 years ago
Your article is non sense. Ramos and Compean ring a bell? Prison for both. Nick Corbet sound familiar? He was tried twice for defending his life from a rock throwing mob of "peaceful" immigrants. Go work on the Mexican border. By yourself. Midnight shift. You might change your mind. Your skirt would probably get dirty.

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