After a review of its use-of-force policies, the U.S. Border Patrol has concluded that agents will still be able to use deadly force against people throwing rocks. That is despite the fact an advisory board reportedly recommended the agency end the tactic.
Since 2010, Border Patrol agents have shot and killed nearly 20 people along the Mexican border. In many of those cases, the victim was accused of throwing rocks across the border at federal agents. After a 2010 Tasing death of a Mexican man in federal custody, members of Congress insisted the agency review its use of force policies.
The Associated Press reports the Police Executive Research Forum recommended that agents stop the practice of firing at rock throwers and at people trying to use their cars to attack agents.
Art Del Cueto is Border Patrol union president in Tucson. He says it’s a common sense policy.
"I think the right decision was made," Del Cueto said. "You’re getting rocked, your life is in danger. You can get killed by a rock. Don’t throw rocks! That’s basically what it comes down to. Why would someone be throwing rocks at an agent to begin with?”
The agency has long viewed rock throwing as a lethal threat. In 2012, agents were attacked with rocks 185 times. According to an audit by the Office of Inspector General, they fired back in 22 cases. Three people were killed.
Alessandra Soler is director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona. She says the Border Patrol should adopt policies like some local law enforcement that spell out less-than-lethal options for agents to consider before killing a rock thrower.
“They have policies that if someone is doing X,Y, or Z, here is a less-than-lethal alternative, spelling it out for every single scenario," she said.
One measure the agency said it will do is train new agents on how to react specifically to rock throwing scenarios. But until recently, the agency lacked the funding to build a mock border wall for training agents.