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In the battle between rocks and bullets, Border Patrol does the right thing

March 07, 2014|By Scott Martelle
  • U.S. Border Patrol agents allegedly shot and killed Jose Alfredo Yanez, whose wake is pictured here, in 2011 after he threw rocks at them.
U.S. Border Patrol agents allegedly shot and killed Jose Alfredo Yanez,… (Alejandro Zepeda / EPA )

It looks like the U.S. Border Patrol has opted for a policy of common sense.

As The Times editorial page wrote last week, and the news pages documented earlier, federal agents patrolling the Mexican border have been involved in dozens of confrontations in which agents stepped in front of moving cars as a pretext to open fire in self-defense, and also responded to rocks thrown at them across the border with deadly fire.

Border Patrol chief Michael J. Fisher on Friday told his agents to knock it off, though not in so many words. As The Times’ Brian Bennett reported, Fisher issued new guidelines that tell agents to move out of rock range when the projectiles come flying at them, unless there’s an imminent danger. And he ordered them not to shoot at fleeing vehicles, a policy that dovetails with operating procedures for most police departments.

From the story:

The Times reported last week that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had commissioned a group of law enforcement experts to conduct an independent review of 67 shooting incidents along the nation’s borders between 2010 and 2012, but then rejected the group’s recommendations to impose stricter limits on shooting at vehicles and rock throwers.

Fisher’s directive Friday, contained in a four-page memorandum entitled “Use of Safe Tactics and Techniques,” effectively reverses that decision and sets new standards on use of force for one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Border Patrol employs more than 21,000 sworn federal agents.

That’s the right call by Fisher.


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