1.6%: CBP data show dysfunctional Internal Affairs

When this 1.6 percent is considered within the historical context that today’s agents receive only about fifty-three days of professional training at the CBP academy in New Mexico before being assigned to guard the borderline between Mexico and the United States, it becomes a whimsical statistic. The 1.6 percent should be considered an ephemeral product of Tomscheck’s bureaucratic imagination. Not to mention the hard fact that the CBP itself has expressed repeated concerns about the rising rates of graft and corruption among its own agents, criminal behavior fueled by Mexican drug cartel money.

Just how bad CBP internal affairs really must be is indicated by the choice of an “outsider” from the FBI replacing Mr. Tomscheck. The CBP never ever picks an outsider to clean up its internal messes.

So how bad is it? It’s so bad that although twenty-eight individuals have been killed by CBP agents since 2010, the results of the investigations into these killings have never been made public. It’s so bad that it remains unknown whether any CBP agents have been punished in any way for these same deaths.

One major problem is the CBP’s lethal force policy for agents. Apparently CBP officials did not like the conclusions of a report completed by the prestigious Police Executive Research Forum criticizing the lethal force policy in place. So last year CBP redacted the crucial parts of the report to prevent Congress from seeing the conclusions reached by this highly regarded outside consultant. Only two weeks ago the uncensored report was finally released to Congress and the public as the result of an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

At their worst, local internal affairs offices at CBP stations along the Mexican border are little more than temporary stopovers for favored agents before retirement. These agents are given highly sought after “desk jobs” to waste away their last few years before earning their full pensions. Neither specially talented nor chosen for their hard work ethic, these CBP agents in IA keep busy looking as if they are busy. But at all costs these same agents do everything but investigate the possible wrongdoings of their fellow agents while focusing on trivial office politics or interagency make-work. Absent any citizen oversight, these CBP IAs have for decades been little more than a repository for agents who were known for being expert at keeping their heads down and their eyes closed.

The FBI’s Morgan is up against a decades-old bureaucratic culture in which a position in the local IA office is a prize awarded a select few before they hang up their uniforms forever. To begin the process of professionalizing CBP’s office of internal affairs, Morgan should release all the data to the public which accurately describes the number of investigations against agents, the nature of the allegations, the results of the IA’s investigations, and the punishments t its agents are given. Morgan’s ultimate goal? No less than to create within the CBP an IA resembling those found in modern law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the DEA, an IA which fairly holds all agents to clear, professional CBP policies and standards including the use of lethal force.

Good luck, Mr. Morgan.

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University is the author of The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at leemaril.com.