Border agency plans vehicle pursuit policy to boost security

DONNA, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said Tuesday he was developing a new policy for vehicle pursuits in an effort to increase security after a spate of deaths.

Commissioner Chris Magnus, who took over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency in December, told The Associated Press the policy is expected “soon” and will be made public. It will be based on extensive discussions with people inside and outside of Border Patrol, data analysis, and a review of the practices of other law enforcement agencies.

Magnus, a former police chief from Tucson, Arizona, briefed Border Patrol agents on his plans during a visit to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings, telling them it was “a problem I want to look into”. ”

“I appreciate that a lot of officers get very nervous when they hear this,” Magnus said during an interview at a migrant detention center in Donna, the site of extreme overcrowding last year. never worked, but you always have to come back to the reality that a professional law enforcement agency continually evaluates its tactics with one key thing in mind, and that is public safety. And the audience actually includes the officers themselves, who are often injured or killed in these pursuits.

CBP, as the Border Patrol’s parent agency is known, worked with the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit advisory group that develops police policy. CBP also informed some advocates who pushed for change.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents officers, said he couldn’t comment without knowing the details.

Although CBP does not disclose the number of Border Patrol car chases, the American Civil Liberties Union chapters in Texas and New Mexico said 22 people were killed in such pursuits last year, down from 14 in 2020 and two in 2019.

There have been 75 people killed in Border Patrol pursuits since January 2010, according to the ACLU, which based its figures on CBP statements and reports.

The agency’s own numbers show 537 use-of-force incidents categorized as “vehicle/vessel” involving CBP employees in the 12-month period to September, down from 210 the year before and 161 the year before. The agency is not more specific on how the force was used.

Shaw Drake, attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said the policy revision was “certainly a welcome step in the right direction,” but it was difficult to comment without specifics.

the current policywhich is 19 pages long, is likely difficult for many officers to interpret and lacks detail on how to weigh the benefits of law enforcement against the risks when deciding whether to prosecute someone, Drake said.

“What we’re seeing in practice is that officers will engage in truly zero-information prosecutions under all circumstances,” Drake said.

Earlier this month, Magnus said the Biden administration was disbanding evidence-gathering teams within Border Patrol after critics said they were secretive and put the agency in an untenable position. to investigate itself in cases that may involve agent misconduct. the “critical incident teams” will cease operations by October 1.

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