Tear Gas, Use of Force Part of Homeland Security Review (1)

  • Council will look at DHS law enforcement policies
  • Launch follows outcry over treatment of Haitian migrants

(Updates with additional reporting throughout.)

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The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a broad review of its law enforcement work through a new council launched Wednesday, more than a week after images of Border Patrol agents and Haitian migrants prompted public outrage.

The Law Enforcement Coordination Council will review use-of-force policies and training to ensure “more fair, equitable, and impartial policing,” according to a DHS announcement.

Photo: Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
Flags at Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“DHS is committed to ensuring our law enforcement personnel and our law enforcement partners have the training and tools to execute their mission, including by protecting civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

The announcement comes after immigrants’ rights advocates and others criticized the Border Patrol for apparently brandishing horse reins against Black Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas. Democratic lawmakers and other critics called on DHS to review the incident and provide greater oversight for its law enforcement components.

Border Patrol Photos Spur Calls for More DHS Officer Oversight

DHS’s law enforcement practices also drew public scrutiny after the agency sent Border Patrol agents and other officers to Portland, Ore., to respond to Black Lives Matter protests last year. It has the most law enforcement officers of any federal agency.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden agreed to move forward on consideration of the Biden administration’s nominee to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection after DHS announced the new council Wednesday. The Oregon Democrat previously stalled the nomination while seeking information about DHS’s role in the Portland protests.

Biden Border Pick’s Nomination in Motion as Democrat Drops Hold

The council will include leaders of DHS law enforcement agencies, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the Privacy Office, and the Office of General Counsel. Mayorkas will serve as chair.

One initial subcommittee will focus on use-of-force policies, including de-escalation tactics and the use of tear gas. Another will focus on law enforcement training techniques that focus on protecting civil rights and liberties, DHS said.

“I applaud Secretary Mayorkas for taking the first steps towards reforming policing by creating this new council and establishing two subcommittees to tackle areas that we have expressed need immediate attention,” House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (Miss.) said in a statement Wednesday.

“Still, we need to be sure today’s action leads to real change, and for that to happen, there needs to be new, confirmed leadership at the highest ranks of the law enforcement components within DHS,” he added, pointing particularly to top posts at CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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