In the last week, the public has learned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deployed 2,174 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to Portland, Oregon and other American cities to help combat rioting there. While there are certainly major problems with public safety and property destruction in some of these cities, which should require a robust and legal law enforcement response, there are also many reasons to be worried about the deployment of CBP agents. One of them is that there is very little oversight of CBP law enforcement officers (LEOs) and a long history of disciplinary, performance, and corruption problems in their ranks.
CBP didn’t have an internal affairs department that could investigate criminal misconduct until 2014, 11 years after it was formed in 2003. The old internal affairs department that managed the Immigration and Naturalization Service was attached to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another sub‐agency under DHS, and another wasn’t created for CBP until 2014. Internal affairs officers, Office of Personnel Management occupation code 1811, weren’t hired in CBP until early in the fiscal year of 2015 according to OPM data. Still, they number very few on the ground.
In 2019, CBP had 60,525 employees, 48,035 of whom were LEOs. In the same year, only 255 of them were internal affairs officers. That’s one internal affairs investigator for every 188 LEOs in CBP. By contrast, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has one internal affairs investigator for every 65 sworn officers, and the older internal affairs division at Customs before the 2003 creation of DHS had one internal affairs investigator for every 136 employees.
Since CBP is now enforcing laws against American citizens in the interior of the United States, it should at least have the same ratio of internal affairs officers to LEOs that the NYPD has. That would mean increasing the numbers of 1811 internal affairs agents to 739, a 2.9 fold increase over the current numbers. CBP should have to hire 484 internal affairs officers to investigate criminal complaints and hold CBP LEO’s accountable for their actions.