R. Gil Kerlikowske, new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is reviewing scores of incidents in which agents have used deadly force. Kerlikowske spoke to NPR in his first extended conversation about controversial incidents in which the Border Patrol has killed civilians without apparent accountability. The agency’s newly appointed deputy in charge of internal affairs is checking on all 67 uses of deadly force listed in a report commissioned by the agency. He also pledged a review of other cases highlighted by NPR, including a 2010 killing of a Mexican teenager that the agency said was justified.
“This has built up over quite a bit of time,” he says, “and it’s going to take a little time to resolve it.” Kerlikowske has made a priority of opening up an agency that is famous for its reluctance to provide information to the public. “Frankly, we need to be better at admitting when we’re wrong or where we’ve made a mistake,” he says. “There is a certain sense in law enforcement that if we just keep our heads down, all of this [media and adocacy group scrutiny] will go away. That doesn’t happen.” Kerlikowske, the former “drug czar,” was appointed by President Obama and was confirmed by the Senate in March.