U.S. Border Patrol agents and customs officers resorted to physical force less often in the past year, even as assaults against them increased slightly, say data released yesterday and reported by the Los Angeles Times. The decline in the use of force by agents continued a trend disclosed earlier this year after new guidelines on weapons were announced. The decrease principally involved the use of what the Border Patrol calls “less lethal” weapons such as pepper-ball guns, Tasers and batons. Use of those weapons was down 27 percent, from 1,008 incidents in fiscal year 2014 to 740 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The use of guns by border agents and officers remained steady at just over two incidents per month. Agents shot their firearms in 28 incidents in fiscal year 2015 versus 29 incidents the year before. Violent incidents along the border remain a significant problem. On average, an assault on an agent is reported roughly once each day–390 in the fiscal year just ended, up five percent from 373 assaults on agents in 2014. Three people have been killed in altercations with Border Patrol agents along the U.S. borders so far in calendar year 2015. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which oversees the Border Patrol, has been under pressure to reverse what its experts have deemed to be a pattern of excessive force by agents.