Agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement aren't getting sufficient training to handle the assaults they face along the Mexican border, including the San Diego region, which the government says is near the top for attacks against its officers, per a study released September 4 by the Homeland Security department's Office of Inspector General.
The statistics show the San Diego's Border Patrol sector ranked third in assaults during the seven fiscal years ending in 2017, with a total of 693, representing 13.7 percent of total attacks for the agency. Placing fourth was the El Centro sector at 9.8 percent with 500 reported incidents. Tucson topped the list at 1369, followed by the Rio Grande Valley with 1226.
"Half of all assaults against CBP law enforcement officers during this period involved a projectile, such as a rock," according to the report, requested by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The official numbers have trended down over the years, but auditors determined that the information can't be trusted. "For a number of reasons, the data is unreliable and does not accurately reflect whether assaults have increased or decreased," according to the document.
"Overall, from FY 2010 to FY 2017, the number of assaults against [Border and Customs] law enforcement officers decreased from 1,089 to 856, while assaults of ICE law enforcement officers remained the same at 48. However, the data does not show a clear trend over that time period, and the number of assaults varied widely from year to year."
In addition to five cases in which handguns were presented or used, "one incident involved an edged weapon like a knife and another involved a Taser. Five subjects used vehicles in the assault." In 29 incidents, "the law enforcement officer sustained assault-related injuries. We have no information about days of work lost due to injury."
Auditors blamed both Customs and Border Protection and ICE for failing to collect detailed information regarding many of the cases, leading to training and force deficiencies.
"CBP and ICE law enforcement officers do not always use the appropriate method to document assaults. Second, the officers are still unfamiliar with the tracking systems, and at ICE, in particular, a technical anomaly may not prompt law enforcement officers to officially report an assault in the correct system."
"Without reliable and accurate data on assaults, neither component can properly evaluate and adjust training, assess risks, and allocate resources to address assaults," added the document, which blasted what it said were lax training practices.
"ICE field offices we visited varied widely in their defensive tactics training. During our interviews in one field office, 5 of the 12 law enforcement officers we interviewed could not remember the last time they received defensive tactics training."
Added the report, "This was supported by ICE training data, which indicated that in FY 2017, only 6 of 84 (7 percent) law enforcement officers in that particular location attended defensive tactics training. Another field office had not conducted any defensive tactics training since 2015."
Said the auditors, "Law enforcement officers told us that training did not occur frequently enough, content was lacking, and the delivery was not applicable to the real world. Although it makes sense for field offices to have flexibility in providing training, at least 75 percent of the law enforcement officers we interviewed said they wanted additional training."
In particular, the document says, ICE officers asked for training on ways to protect themselves during border confrontations with migrants. "The respondents indicated they would like scenario-based content that focuses on defensive tactics, verbal de-escalation techniques, and hand-or-ground-fighting."