Border Patrol agents work in a unique law enforcement environment and encounter threats that are not often seen by police and sheriff’s departments. One of these threats is the use of rocks by smugglers and illegal aliens to harass, distract, and assault Border Patrol agents. Rocks are prevalent throughout the southwest border, weapons that are close at hand, and are of sufficient size to cause extensive injuries to agents including death.
The recent recommendations made by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to limit the use of deadly force against rock throwers and vehicular assaults, are shortsighted and come from an urban policing mentality. Police officers often operate from patrol cars and have the luxury of multiple back-up units in close proximity should that need arise. They are able to contain and control a location thus making the arrest of any suspect easier. Border Patrol agents are not trained this way and do not have these same tactical opportunities.
Border Patrol agents are often on foot and outnumbered when encountering illegal aliens and smugglers, and are trained to close the distance with suspects in order to quickly control and arrest them. This often puts agents in a situation where they are assaulted by rocks. Additional agents may be miles away and less-than-lethal weapons unavailable. An assault that may commence quickly leaves agents at a tactical disadvantage and with little recourse other than to use their firearm to defend themselves.
“There has always been a rush to blame Border Patrol agents for rocking assaults that end in the suspect being shot and killed,” says Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC). “These suspects chose to be criminals and to assault Border Patrol agents and they are to blame. If you don’t throw rocks at Border Patrol agents, you won’t be shot.”
The NBPC will never stop fighting for the ability of Border Patrol agents to defend themselves against all types of assaults.