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Customs and Border Protection Releases Long-Awaited Review and Use-of-Force Policy

Washington D.C. - Today, after numerous formal and informal requests from border advocates and a lawsuit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a 2013 report by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit research organization, analyzing the agency’s use-of-force policies and practices. CBP commissioned the report after receiving inquiries from sixteen Members of Congress following a series of deaths during encounters with CBP personnel. CBP also released its new Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook.

At first glance, CBP appears to have incorporated a number of PERF’s recommendations into its handbook, but a closer analysis is necessary. While policy change is critical, PERF rightly noted in its report that “CBP will need to craft an implementation strategy for re-orientation and training before new policies go into effect.” Effective training and periodic retraining, coupled with better oversight and accountability mechanisms, will be critical for real change to take hold.

While the release of these documents represents an important step toward greater openness in an agency long known for secrecy, this is merely the first step in a very long process. The real measure of success will be how quickly and effectively CBP is able to adopt and implement policies that rein in abuse and whether it will develop a culture of transparency and accountability.