The national U.S. Border Patrol Chief, Michael J. Fisher, issued a memorandum last week outlining guiding principles on the use of force to all field personnel. The national media descended into a feeding frenzy. A sampling of the “informative” headlines follows:
“Border Patrol Restricts Shooting At Rock Throwers” – “Border Patrol Reverses Course On Guidelines Regarding Use Of Force” – “Border Agents Told To Avoid Lethal Force” – “Border Patrol Issues New Rules On Shooting” – “Chief Admonishes Border Patrol On Use Of Force” – “U.S. Border Patrols Ordered To Limit Shootings” – “Border Patrol Told To Stop Shooting At Vehicles, Rock Throwers” – “Border Patrol To Limit Use Of Deadly Force Against Rock Throwers”.
If any of these headlines were true, I would be one of the first to publicly demand Chief Fisher’s resignation or removal. Any policy or operational directive that would increase the significant dangers already faced by Border Patrol agents would be indefensible. Not surprisingly, none of the headlines described Chief Fisher’s directives accurately.
In his instructions to the field, Chief Fisher reinforced the notion that agents should seek a tactical advantage in each situation and avoid taking actions that might place themselves or others at unnecessary risk. The chief reiterated the long-standing policy that deadly force may only be used in situations where an agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the agent or another person.
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