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Customs and Border Protection to End 'Critical Incident Teams'

After a litany of coverup allegations and pressure from activists and Congress, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is terminating the Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams. CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said that by Oct. 1 the Border Patrol “will eliminate all Critical Incident Teams” and its personnel “will no longer respond to critical incidents for scene processing or evidence collection,” the Washington Post reports. Magnus directed the Office of Professional Responsibility to take “full responsibility for responding to critical incidents.” It will need to hire “a significant number of new personnel” for its new responsibilities His memo directed the office to “assign sufficient priority to ensure applicants … are able to move through the hiring process as quickly as possible.”

The memo gave no reason for the move, but CBP’s interim critical incident response guidance in February said, “Maintaining the public’s trust is vital to our mission.” A lack of trust was clear when Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, applauded the termination of what she described as “rogue units." Without congressional authorization, since 1987 these units have responded to scenes where allegations of brutality could develop — not to conduct unbiased investigations, but to protect agents from those allegations. A Border Patrol PowerPoint presentation, provided to Congress by the advocacy group Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), lists one of the teams’ missions as “mitigation of civil liability” — protecting agents from litigation. “Unlike an ‘Internal Affairs’ division of a police agency” that in theory impartially investigates police actions, the presentation says a critical incident team “preserves and protects the integrity of the Border Patrol and its personnel.” The teams’ investigations can unjustly transform those who suffered death or injury at the hands of Border Patrol agents into culprits accused of harming the officers, says SBCC.

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