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The San Diego Union Tribune: Border Patrol needs safer, smarter policy on vehicle pursuits

May 9, 2019

Despite headline-generating scandals and controversies, policing in America has never been more professional. A key reason for this is the sharing of information about best practices by organizations like the National Police Foundation and the National Association of Chiefs of Police and by the federal government’s National Institute of Justice. This is why beginning in the 1990s, a consensus emerged that police chases often endanger officers and the public — not just the criminal suspects being chased — and should be discouraged.

Unfortunately, a new report by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times shows the Border Patrol didn’t get the memo. It documented how in the last four years at least 22 people died and 250 were injured after more than 500 Border Patrol pursuits in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Researchers gathered this information from documents in 9,000 federal criminal complaints filed against alleged human smugglers.

Not only did the Border Patrol refuse to provide information about its agents’ chases, it wouldn’t answer basic questions about its guidelines on when chases were considered acceptable.

This is inexplicable and indefensible. Not only should the Border Patrol be transparent about its policies and record, it should be ready to explain why it has a different view on the necessity of vehicle chases than other law enforcement authorities — especially given the carnage over the past four years.

Yes, of course, the suspects who are driving and won’t pull over bear by far the most responsibility for the deaths and injuries cited by ProPublica and the Times.

But pursuits on public streets and highways are fraught with risk — as everyone but the Border Patrol seems to have figured out.

— The San Diego Union-Tribune