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No border agents disciplined for deadly force incidents since 2004

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No border agents disciplined for deadly force incidents since 2004

The new acting chief of internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection said Friday during a press conference that the agency had not formally disciplined a member of the agency for deadly force since 2004.

The Arizona Republic reported that Mark Alan Morgan, recently appointed to lead the internal affairs branch of Customs and Border Protection, made the comments while highlighting the agency's internal review process, which began last month.

During the conference, Morgan said he had no timeline to complete the review and, according to the Associated Press "doesn't know how much detail will be released on individual cases."

Morgan said that at present, the agency is only looking into one case that resulted in a death, however, the agency will continue to review 155 cases of use of force and alleged misconduct. 

Overall, CBP has examined 860 cases, including 67 cases involving deadly force that were addressed in a critical report last year.

Since 2005, 46 people have been killed by Border Patrol agents or Customs officers, including Jose Luis Arambula, who was shot in the back of the head as he was fleeing Border Patrol agents on foot on May 30 near a Green Valley golf course.

Morgan's statement comes amid harsh criticism by James F. Tomsheck of the agency's handling of internal affairs. Tomsheck was the agency's former head of internal affairs, and was reassigned in June to another post.

Tomscheck spoke to the Center for Investigative Reporting on Aug. 14, saying that at least a quarter of the 28 deaths caused by CBP agents since 2010 were "highly suspect." 

"In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand," said Tomscheck. 

In Sept. 2013, an Inspector General's report highlighted serious problems within the agency's own use of force investigations, saying that CBP had no way to track complaints of excessive force and that many agents did not understand the agency's own policies.

The report was requested by 16 members of Congress after a Mexican man, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, 42, died after being beaten and tasered by agents in an incident that was captured on camera by eyewitnesses.

In May, the Border Patrol responded by releasing a report the agency had commissioned in 2013, which was highly critical of the use of force by agents.

The 21-page report by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research and policy organization, cited a "lack of diligence" with regard to investigations, and a "no-harm, no-foul" approach that lead to "tacit approval of bad practices."

The report also questioned the agency's seriousness with regard to deadly force incidents, writing: "It is not clear that CBP consistently and thoroughly reviews all use of deadly force incidents."

The release of the report was part of an effort to make the agency more transparent, said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske at that time.

"Too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force," the report said.

At least 13 families are currently suing the agency for use of force incidents, including the family of Elena Rodriguez, who filed suit in federal court in Tucson on July 29, demanding the name of the agent responsible. The federal government has maneuvered to keep the name of the agent secret.

Kerlikowske said his agency would review 67 cases highlighted by the report, as well as 809 cases of abuse, including physical abuse, verbal threats, and withholding of medical care as reported by the American Immigration Council in a May report. Additionally, a formal complaint by civil rights groups was filed in June, arguing that the agency had abused 113 minors in custody over the last year.

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