SAN DIEGO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will begin wearing body cameras at a training facility in October and the new program is getting mixed reviews.
In an effort to make the agency more transparent, U.S. CBP commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said beginning October 1, a variety of body cameras will be tested at the U.S. Border Patrol training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.
“Putting these into place, as you know, is not only complicated, it’s also expensive,” Kerlikowske said Tuesday.
National Border Patrol Council Vice President Shawn Moran said the money spent on body cameras could be spent in better ways.
“Everyday border patrol agents put their lives on the line to protect our communities. However, instead of investing in training, and a stable pay system that appropriately compensates the men and women for their sacrifice,” Moran said. “We are asked to purchase expensive equipment to satisfy those who openly advocate against Border Patrol agents and criticize our every action. In these dangerous times, this idea is a wasteful use of resources, training time and focus.”
Moran isn’t alone; National Border Patrol Council San Diego representative Gabe Pocheco said he is worried the cameras could be used against agents in the field.
“Is this tool really going to be used in the appropriate way that its to be used? Our concern is that its going to be used against agents,” Pocheco said.
If the goal is to make the agency more transparent, Pocheco argued that could have been done years ago simply by releasing documents to the public once investigations of alleged abuse or improper use of force had been completed.
“As soon as we had any type of critical incidents, they would have been able to put those reports out to the public and that’s what’s lacking,” Pocheco said.
About 155 incidents since 2009 require further investigation after complaints of alleged abuse and improper use of force.
Pocheco said statistics show people act differently when they know they are being watched, but he wondered if acting differently could become dangerous at times. He said he is concerned agents would hesitate at times they need to act quickly.
“Sometimes these situations they get into are life and death situations. They’re dynamic, they’re fluid, they need to make that split second decision. And I don’t want anyone to go out there and hesitate from doing their job and not protect themselves,” he said.
The cameras will be tested in a controlled environment, but what happens during real situations in the field will be the true test.
CBP representatives remain tight lipped on the topic, leaving more questions than answers. When FOX 5 spoke with representatives in Washington, D.C., Virginia, San Diego and Texas… none of them revealed how much the cameras would cost or which camera models would be tested.
And it is still unclear when and if 21,000 agents would use them in the field.