Audit Stirs Debate Over Border Patrol Use-Of-Force Policies

By Jude Joffe-Block
February 28, 2014
Jude Joffe-Block
Stickers on the border fence that divides Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Mexico call for justice for Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez who was shot through the fence by U.S. Border Patrol agents who said they were acting in self defense.

PHOENIX β€” An independent review of the U.S. Border Patrol found agents may have stepped in front of moving cars on purpose to justify shooting at the drivers.

The agency never made the year-old report public, but it was leaked to a news outlet and is now inviting controversy.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection hired the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum to review past shootings.

According to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a copy of the report, PERF also concluded that agents sometimes fired at rock throwers out of frustration, or when they could have moved out of the way instead.

PERF recommended limitations on when agents can shoot at drivers and rock throwers, a suggestion the agency rejected.

Advocacy groups are now calling for the report's public release.

β€œIt is deeply concerning to us that the agency is choosing to one, withhold a police expert agency audit of their agency, and that they are also choosing to reject the recommendations of this expert agency,” said Andrea Guerrero of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

Border Patrol told the Los Angeles Times the agency needs flexibility in its use-of-force policies. Border Patrol agents often work in remote areas without immediate backup.

In 2012, Border Patrol agents fired through the Nogales border fence, they said in self defense in response to rocks thrown from the Mexican side. Their shots into Mexico killed a 16-year old boy, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson is reportedly reviewing the department's use-of-force policies.