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Customs Chief Hails Improvements

January 19, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Customs Service Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who overhauled personal search policies for airline passengers after complaints of abuse and sought to improve the agency’s standing with the public, bid farewell to employees Friday, his last day on the job.

``I am indebted to the many, many people in the Customs Service who serve their country so well,″ he said.

Deputy Commissioner Chuck Winwood will run the agency until President-elect Bush names a replacement.

Kelly took the helm of Customs, a part of the Treasury Department, in 1998, after having served as Treasury’s undersecretary for enforcement.

A former Marine who served in Vietnam, Kelly as commissioner of the New York City Police Department played a key role in the investigation of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Customs spokesman Dean Boyd said Kelly plans to take a vacation and has not announced what he will do next.

Amid allegations of abusive searches and minorities’ complaints of harassment, the agency over the past several year has made a number of policy changes, including tightening the approval process of personal searches.

It also has required inspectors to seek legal advice from U.S. attorneys whenever they want to hold an airline passenger for more than eight hours and clarified criteria for conducting searches and retrained officers.

``Our reform of the personal search process made it easier and fairer for law-abiding travelers to clear Customs,″ Kelly said. ``Simultaneously, our efficiency in seizing contraband improved.″

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On the Net:

Customs Service site: http://www.customs.gov

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