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After Intense Pressure, Border Patrol Use Of Force Guidelines Released

A report on Border Patrol practices showed that agents stepped in front of fleeing cars and shot at rock throwers. The use of force guidelines released Friday show these practices are banned unless the subject poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the agent or someone else.

Posted on March 7, 2014, at 12:56 p.m. ET

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file

The use of deadly force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as described in an explosive report leaked last week violate Department of Homeland Security guidelines on use of force.

The use of force guidelines, established in 2010, were provided to BuzzFeed before their public release Friday by a congressional staff member who asked not to be named.

The report by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and leaked to the Los Angeles Times last week, reviewed 67 cases that led to 19 deaths. The report detailed that agents had repeatedly stepped in front of fleeing cars to justify shooting at them as well as shooting at rock throwers from across the border. The report recommended that these practices be stopped, which the Border Patrol rejected.

These actions now appear to be against Border Patrol use of deadly force guidelines, which state that "officers/agents may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such deadly force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer/agent or to another person."

Further, "firearms shall not be fired solely to disable vehicles," the guidelines read.

And deadly force may only be used against the driver or other occupant of a moving motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other conveyance only when the agent has "a reasonable belief that the subject of such deadly force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer/agent or to another person and the hazard of an uncontrolled conveyance has been taken into consideration before firing."

Shawn P. Moran, vice president of the Border Patrol union, previously told BuzzFeed the Border Patrol was right to reject the recommendations made in the PERF report.

"We feel if there is any restriction on when they can use force on rock throwers or vehicular assaults, the criminals we deal with will resort to those means on a more regular basis," he said.

The Border Patrol issued a statement to BuzzFeed saying it did not release the report because it views it as an internal advisory document.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioned the internal CBP and Police Executive Research Forums (PERF) reviews to help develop and strengthen its use of force training and policies. The reports issued from the reviews remain internal advisory documents, as part of a deliberative process of developing and continuing to refine CBP policy. CBP agrees with the spirit and intent of all the recommendations, and has already begun to take steps to implement the vast majority. CBP's policy clearly states that agents and officers may use deadly force only when the agent or officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the agent, officer, or to another person. Excessive force is strictly prohibited and deadly force is only to be used as a last resort. CBP is committed to maintaining the public trust, and will continue to engage with stakeholders on our use of force policy, training and actions.

Before the use of force guidelines were released, activists and Democrats called for the PERF report to be released to the public.

"This is what happens when you militarize a border and terrorize a community," Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the immigration organization United We Dream, said. "You create mistrust between law enforcement and the community."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.