Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) use-of-force policies are once again under a microscope after a new report written by former Baltimore police commissioner and Justice Department official Thomas Frazier, was released. First reported by the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Reveal, Frazier’s scathing review of CBP policy was done at the request of the family of José Alfredo Yañez Reyes, who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol Agent in June 2011 after he and another man tried to flee from agents into Mexico.

Frazier specifically focused on CBP’s previous and current policy related to dealing with rock throwers and the actions by the then head of the Border Patrol, Chief Fisher, who retired in 2015. According to Reveal, “In his review, Frazier detailed nearly three dozen shootings involving rock throwers from 2005 through 2011, eight of which were fatal. Since 2010, more than 40 people have been killed in encounters with the Border Patrol.”

In 2014, after the release of another report by the Police Executive Research Forum which stated that CBP “should be prohibited from using deadly force against subjects throwing objects not capable of causing serious physical injury or death to them,” Chief Fisher issued a new directive related to throwing projectiles. The directive said, “Agents shall not discharge firearms in response to thrown or hurled projectiles unless the agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of the circumstances, to include the size and nature of the projectiles, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious injury.”

In reviewing CBP’s previous and updated policy on rock throwing, Frazier stated, it is “inherently suspect” for a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in response to rock throwing.

“In my experience I have never heard of, and do not know of, any law enforcement agency that considers a thrown projectile as per se ‘Deadly Force.’ Key principles in modern law enforcement, which CBP Policy endorses, are ‘Force Continuum’ and ‘Imminent Peril.’ Virtually all thrown objects fail to meet the ‘Imminent Peril’ standard.”

Frazier went on to say he is aware of only one incident from 1942, where a police officer was actually killed by a thrown rock or projectile.

Frazier then criticizes former Chief Fisher saying “A reasonable supervisor in Fisher’s position would have clarified the use of force policy, promoted proper safe tactics and techniques, provided scenario-based training, and corrected the culture … all of which Fisher failed to do.” Frazier concluded the shooting of Mr. Yañez Reyes was a “highly predictable consequence of the lack of proper training and direction that a reasonable chief would have provided in these circumstances.”

While this report is very concerning, Commissioner Kerlikowske, who has been in charge of CBP since March of 2014, has recently instituted some important reforms in an attempt to bring additional transparency and accountability to an agency that for far-too-long operated with impunity. Some policies and trainings have been revised and released publicly and with input from immigration groups. CBP has also made steps towards implementing body-worn cameras and developing policies around this new technology. So in the final months of the Obama Administration, it will be important for Commissioner Kerlikowske to continue to work to change the culture in CBP and set the stage for the next administration.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.