Statement by ACLU Experts on CBP’s Use-of-Force Statistics

SAN DIEGO — Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released stats on use-of-force incidents for fiscal year 2015, claiming a reduction in incidents, yet falling short of providing stats on all officer-civilian interactions involving force.

Most conspicuously, CBP defines force too narrowly, excluding incidents that are captured by the Department of Justice’s standards. Beyond CBP’s three chosen categories—a physical restraint, the use of an alternative device or the application of lethal force—the stats fail to provide all incidents of use of force.

The following can be attributed to Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:

“CBP’s 2015 reduction in lethal-force use and the agency’s public release of improved data about some incidents are encouraging, yet CBP doesn’t appear to be counting anywhere near all uses of force defined by the Department of Justice. Without more accurate statistics, proper investigation of numerous past cases involving deadly and abusive force, and the addition of civilian oversight, CBP will fail to build trust in border communities about its reforms.”

The following can be attributed to Mitra Ebodalahi, Border Litigation Project attorney, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties:

“We are all for less use of force by CBP, which has a deeply troubling record of killings and excessive force, but cannot cheer today’s announcement by CBP for several key reasons.

  • CBP’s release today celebrates a decrease in use-of-force incidents based on incomplete statistics that exclude too many instances of uses of force;
  • The announcement lacks transparency regarding pending disciplinary action or investigations and fails to address border residents’ concerns that CBP culture values military-style policing over de-escalation and preservation of human life;
  • We believe CBP should use force only as a last resort, and any force used should be publicly reported and investigated to ensure that it was no more than necessary.
  • CBP’s longstanding use of racial profiling and excessive force are at odds with American values of fairness and justice.
  • Public reporting of use-of-force incidents is a step towards transparency, but falls short of policing best practices put forward by President Obama’s own Task Force on 21st Century Policing, such as civilian oversight. CBP must expand public reporting to include data on stops and searches aggregated by demographics. Without this data, border communities have no way of assessing CBP’s record on racial profiling, excessive force, and lack of accountability.”


** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY FEB. 4 ** New York National Guard members Spc. Steve Hammann, left, of Buffalo, N.Y., and Pfc. Jamie Kilbury, center, of Lockport, N.Y., get an up-close look at the border (fence at left), with Border Patrol agent Sean King, right, near the Arizona-Mexico border on Friday, Jan. 19, 2007 in Sasabe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)