Monday, December 12, 2011

DHS IG: Border Patrol Agent Training, Weapons ‘Have Not Kept Pace with Increased Violence’ They Face

By Edwin Mora

Border Patrol officers
U.S. Border Patrol officers are dropped by helicopter into a remote border area. (Photo: CBP/James Tourtellotte)

( - The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG), in its FY 2012 Annual Performance Plan, reports that training, weapons, and rules of engagement for Border Patrol agents have failed to keep up with the “increased violence” they are facing.

“There are concerns that Border Patrol agent training, deployed weapons, and rules of engagement have not kept pace with the increased violence on the border,” the DHS IG reports in the FY 2012 performance plan released in October.

“Along with this, the push to hire new agents may have created a void in experience levels of the agents deployed to facilitate the Border Patrol’s mission. It is estimated that 40% of the agents have no more than 2 years of on-the-job experience. It is paramount that Border Patrol agent training, rules of engagement (including use of nonlethal weapons), and agent-issued weapons are commensurate with the current border threat environment,” the plan stated.

“Violence has significantly increased against Border Patrol agents. Since 2007, assaults on agents have risen more than 35%, including 13 deaths,” the plan added. “Most recently, in December 2010, a Border Patrol agent was killed when his unit encountered a group of illegal border crossers armed with AK-47 assault weapons.

“When the illegal entrants were ordered to drop their weapons and refused, the Border Patrol agents fired beanbags at the migrants, who returned fire with their assault weapons. The agents then returned fire with one long gun and a pistol. One agent was killed and the other badly wounded.”

Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by Mexican bandits on Dec. 14, 2010. Two of the weapons found on the scene of his murder have been linked to the botched gun-running Department of Justice (DOJ) operation that allowed thousands of guns to walk into the hands of Mexican criminals, which is not mentioned in the DHS IG report.

The intention of the operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious,” was to trace the guns and then build cases against members of the Mexican drug cartels.

Terry’s death has prompted Congress to investigate the gun operation, which has many Republican lawmakers calling for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation.

In the performance plan, released in October, the DHS IG does not specifically say which area along the U.S. border has seen a “significant” increase in violence against Border Patrol agents. Furthermore, in the DHS IG plan, the assaults against Border Patrol agents are not broken down by year.

Although the DHS IG notes that there has been a 35 percent increase in assaults against Border Patrol agents since 2007, DOJ’s 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, released in September states that “levels of violence directed against federal law enforcement officers (LEOs) along the Southwest Border have remained relatively stable over the past 3 years, but surged in some areas and abated in others. The total number of assaults directed against border patrol agents along the Southwest Border remained practically unchanged between FY2009 (1,056) and FY2010 (1,049).”

The assessment shows that “assaults against Border Patrol personnel” are “categorized as physical, vehicle, and weapon assaults as well as ‘rockings,’” later adding that “assaults against [federal law enforcement officers] between [U.S. ports of entry] most often involve rockings (76 percent in FY2010) and generally appear to be intended to deter agents from seizing illicit drugs and illegal aliens; however, some occasionally result in injury or death.”

According to the DHS IG, “CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. It has a workforce of more than 43,600 sworn federal agents and officers, including over 20,000 Border Patrol agents and over 20,000 CBP officers.”

There are more Border Patrol agents deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border than along its northern counterpart.

Border Patrol agents are responsible for securing about 8,600 miles of the U.S. border. This includes the approximately 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border, an estimated 4,000 miles of the U.S.-Canada border, plus sectors of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the performance plan, in FY 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012), the DHS IG plans to “determine whether CBP has updated its threat analysis and operational strategy to address the current boarder threat environment.”


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