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Border Patrol to test body cameras

Published:Friday | September 19, 2014 | 9:00 AM
AP US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske.

SAN DIEGO (AP): The United States Border Patrol purchased body cameras and will begin testing them this year at its training academy, two people briefed on the move said, as new leadership moves to blunt criticism about agents' use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, who has led the Border Patrol's parent agency since March, announced the plans on Tuesday to a small group of activists who have pressed for cameras, according to a person who attended the briefing and spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussion was intended to be private. Testing will occur at the Border Patrol academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

latest discussion

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner didn't tell activists how many cameras were bought or discuss when or whether they would be introduced to any of the roughly 21,000 agents in the field, the person said. The meeting in Detroit was the latest discussion that Kerlikowske has held with some of his most vocal critics of the Border Patrol's use of force.

Another person briefed on the plans said testing will occur from October and December and that it was unclear if or when they would be introduced in the field.

Kerlikowske scheduled a news conference yesterday in Washington to discuss what his office said were "developments toward CBP's commitment to increase transparency and accountability".

Michael Friel, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, declined to comment on body cameras or the nature of yesterday's announcement.

The measure is a first step toward satisfying activists who have long demanded cameras as a way to keep a check on potential abuses. It is likely to meet opposition from the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing more than 17,000 agents, which has said cameras would be expensive and may cause agents to hesitate when their lives are threatened.

bridging mistrust

Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the agents' union, said the development came as no surprise after the White House said this week that requiring police officers to wear body cameras was a potential solution for bridging mistrust between law enforcement and the public.

The camera proposal gained traction under Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, who has moved more aggressively than his predecessors to address complaints that Customs and Border Protection is slow to investigate incidents of deadly force and alleged abuses by agents and inspectors, and lacking in transparency.