In response to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announcing it would disband Critical Incident Teams tasked with investigating and collecting evidence of excessive and deadly use of force from its agents, House leaders applauded the elimination of what they viewed as obstructive elements.
“I welcome CBP’s decision to disband Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams in the wake of our announced investigation into reports that these teams may have obstructed law enforcement investigations and prevented agent accountability,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said.
Doubling down on this, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, described the House’s investigation into these units, which she described as “rogue.” Even with their removal, she cited concerns that members of these teams kept agents from being prosecuted for crimes undertaken ostensibly in the line of duty. That investigation was prompted by police reports of CBP activities, witness accounts, and even statements from former Department of Homeland Security supervisors.
“Today’s announcement is a clear acknowledgment that these unregulated and unsupervised Critical Incident Teams are more of a liability than an asset to the mission of protecting our borders and upholding the rule of law,” Maloney said. “I remain committed to ensuring transparency and accountability of this rogue program and to getting answers as to whether these teams protected agents from being held accountable for potentially serious misconduct.”
CBP – and DHS at large – has been accused numerous times of interfering to protect agents and the agency’s reputation. The decision to disband Critical Incident Teams will result in certain functions being transferred to the Office of Professional Responsibility. Since February, those teams had been operating under restricted, interim guidance and subject to a multi-office review of critical incident response, following notification from Maloney and Thompson that they were being investigated.
Dissolution of the teams does not mean an end to the investigation.
“While this is a positive step, it remains critical that CBP provide Congress with a full accounting of these teams’ authorities and actions, including any potential misconduct,” Thompson said.
Further, leaders from the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees, House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and House Oversight Committee earlier this year asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake a review of CBP’s use of Critical Incident Teams.