iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Responding to complaints of excessive force, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske has announced the agency will now have the authority to conduct criminal investigations into misconduct within its ranks and will introduce the use of body cameras.
“This is something that has not existed in a pretty good number of years,” Kerlikowske said of Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s decision to give this authority to CBP.
“This is in conjunction with the office of inspector general. We now have the primary authority to conduct these independent internal criminal investigations. That authority translates to a more timely and a more transparent process to investigate misconduct,” Kerlikowske added.
In addition, the agency will also begin testing the use of body cameras next month for agents at their training facility in Artesia, New Mexico.
“We’ve purchased a number of different styles. As you know the border patrol works in some very difficult terrain [and] Artesia, New Mexico, where they train is one of the best places to practice this,” he said. “So we’ll be looking at what are the best cameras, what system works the best and then we’ll move on to other phases of field testing.”
The commissioner also announced the creation of an office of internal affairs, as well as an inter-agency board to review use of force incidents. He called the move a “significant step forward” in line with law enforcement’s best practices.
The effort to change the agency comes as Kerlikowske works to increase transparency within the largest law enforcement agency in the United States.
The agency has come under scrutiny in recent years after multiple incidents of use of deadly force, including the cross border shooting of a teen in Senora, Mexico who was accused of throwing rocks.
According to the Arizona Republic, Border Patrol agents have shot to death 46 people in the past decade, 15 of whom were Americans.
Mark Morgan, interim head of Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs office, announced last week that 155 cases of the 860 cases since 2009 merit further investigation.
“I’m very interested in making sure that cases that still have questions are answered, but I’m also very interested in making sure that we go forward with how we’re going to investigate cases in the future,” Kerlikowske said. “I think you have to put one into context. When I talk about us having that criminal investigative authority, we’re a large organization, we own this problem, and we own the responsibility to make sure that we’re doing a good job of investigating it.”
Responding to whether or not ISIS is a concern to infiltrate the southwest border, Kerlikowske told ABC News, “I think there’s always a concern on the terrorism front, we certainly are not seeing any organized attempt on the southwest border right now.”
“We review and look at well over now, 400,000 people that have been apprehended,” he said. “We watch very carefully and do extensive interviews with those people who have been apprehended.”
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