ACLU: CBP Body-Camera Announcement Fails to Address Accountability Crisis

Commissioner Kerlikowske announced additional phases today to further study the use of body-worn and other camera technologies at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The announcement follows the conclusion of a feasibility study, which tested body-worn cameras in both training and operational environments for all CBP component agencies and included field-testing by the El Paso Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol.

“CBP, our nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is in a deep accountability crisis with an urgent need for systemic cultural changes,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights. “Every day CBP drags its feet, they enable Border Patrol agents to abuse their power, profile residents, and kill unarmed civilians in incidents that to date have been shrouded in secrecy and offend American values of equality and justice.”

If CBP were a state or local police force, its record of abuses would have led to judicial intervention years ago. There are at least 42 families who have lost loved ones in CBP deadly-force incidents since 2010, several of which are known to the public only through cellphone videos. In this context, Commissioner Kerlikowske’s hesitant announcement of another incremental stage of body-worn-camera testing is alarmingly unequal to the task and reinforces CBP’s harmful effort to play by different rules than police.

“Two years after cameras were put on CBP’s agenda, no significant deployment has taken place,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel of the ACLU on border and immigration issues. “Meanwhile, major police departments across the country and in border communities have successfully integrated body cameras and developed model policies to maximize the cameras’ accountability benefits while protecting civil liberties.”

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