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The Biden administration defended the use of “critical incident teams” at the border but signaled a willingness to cooperate with oversight investigations after Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about the operations this week.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s specialized teams are “vitally important” in the collection and processing of evidence related to enforcement activities, Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement to Bloomberg Government on Tuesday.
House and Senate Democrats have called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate CBP’s use of the incident teams in cases of potential agent misconduct. A coalition of border community groups last year accused the teams of attempting to cover up Border Patrol agents’ culpability in accidents and misconduct.
Department of Homeland Security law enforcement practices already have drawn broader scrutiny and oversight.
The teams assist CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and other law enforcement agencies when they conduct investigations involving agents and work on enforcement cases related to human trafficking and drug smuggling, Magnus said.
“Maintaining the public’s trust is vital to our mission and we look forward to addressing CBP’s commitment to transparency and accountability with the GAO and Congressional committees,” Magnus said, adding that the agency has updated oversight, training, and use of force policies.
Many Border Patrol agents began using body cameras last summer, for example, and CBP plans a significant expansion of the program this year. Cameras will be distributed to 6,000 agents this year, up from the current level of 800, CBP said.
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