Border Chief: Investigating ‘Deadly Force’ by Agents ‘Very Hard’ Due to ‘Difficult to Access’ Database

By Penny Starr | July 21, 2014 | 3:36 PM EDT

ICE Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske ( Starr)

( – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told National Public Radio (NPR) Friday that investigating the 67 cases where border patrol agents used “deadly force” while enforcing U.S. immigration law was “very hard” because of the database used by the agency.

NPR host Steve Inskeep asked Kerlikowske about his response to reporters’ questions about those 67 cases.

“You told reporters some weeks ago, you were asked about those 67 uses of deadly force, you were asked, ‘Has anybody been disciplined?’” Inskeep said. “I believe your response, if I can summarize, was, ‘I'm sure someone has, but it's hard to tell.’”

“Yeah, it's very hard to tell, because we have a database that is very difficult to access,” Kerlikowske said, adding that Mark Morgan, the new head of internal affairs at CBP, was looking into each case.

The more than eight-minute NPR interview focused mostly on CBP’s use of force policy and a “culture of secrecy” at the agency. Kerlikowske, who was the chief of police in Seattle prior to being named President Barack Obama’s drug czar and subsequently being tapped to head CBP, oversaw the creation of the new use of force policy at the agency.

Inskeep asked Kerlikowske whether he agrees that there is a “culture of secrecy” at CBP.

“I don't agree,” Kerlikowske said. “I have sat down with dozens and dozens of Border Patrol agents from the northern border to the southwest with their leadership, et cetera.

“These folks have a great story to tell,” he said. “I mean, they are saving lives every single day.

“They are being assaulted on a regular basis,” Kerlikowske said. “Those days of apprehending 20 people coming across the border and all of them following you to be processed, those days don't really exist. We see people armed all the time. We see people flee. We see people fight or assault.

“These agents have a great story to tell; unfortunately we haven't been very good at telling that part of the story,” he added.

Inskeep did not ask Kerlikowske about drug or human trafficking, and his only references to the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America who have been streaming across the border in recent weeks was about charges that some of those children are being abused. He also asked if these children represent the “complexity” of the Border Patrol agents’ job.

Kerlikowske replied, in part, “I think it tells you a lot about the complexity of the international situations, and it tells you a lot about the complexity of immigration. The need for comprehensive immigration reform is critical, and I'll tell you, I'm a huge admirer of what the Border Patrol agents are doing.”