Border Patrol Shootings: Who Investigates?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We hear a lot about excessive use of force by police against black males in cities such as Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore.

But, have you heard of the shooting of an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican boy? He was shot in the face by a Border Patrol agent for throwing rocks at a border bridge to El Paso. Another 17-year-old boy was shot and killed for throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border fence in Arizona. A third man was shot and killed by Border Patrol officers as he was trying to climb over a border fence into Mexico.

Shootings by Border Patrol officers are investigated by the U.S Customs and Border Protection. Would it surprise you to hear that none of the Border Patrol officers involved were fired, disciplined, or charged with any crimes for these shootings?

Internal Investigations

From January 2010 to October 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) officers were involved in 67 cases of use of deadly force. Two years ago, law enforcement experts issued a report criticizing CBP for not fully investigating those 67 cases.

In response, CBP announced an internal review. Well, that review lasted two years, and, surprise, surprise, all officers were absolved of any liability or wrongdoing in the deadly force cases. Two agents did get oral reprimands though.

Were these decisions fair to the public? Was the investigation biased in favor of the officers since it was their own agency investigating them? It would seem so, but there is little evidence either way as Customs and Border Patrol has been very secretive about the investigations.


Like the CBP, Wisconsin's police review boards, in 129 years, have never found a police officer at fault for killing anyone.

Were these officers truly justified in their use of force, or were the review board investigations too biased to be effective? To help combat the perception of bias and any actual bias, Wisconsin became the first state to require that a fatal shooting by police be investigated by people outside of the agency that employs the suspected officers.

Should the CBP be allowed to investigate its own agents in deadly force cases, or should it be required to adopt a rule similar to Wisconsin's? What do you think?

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