Crime Trackers: ACLU report shows systemic abuse, few apprehensi - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: ACLU report shows systemic abuse, few apprehensions

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The U.S. Border Patrol is facing accusations of widespread acts of abuse. It stems from a new report that outlines operations at checkpoints and roving patrols.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona alleges a systemic lack of oversight of agents who violate motorists' rights on a dramatic scale.

The report is co-authored by two University of Arizona law professors.

The report said that there were false alerts by service canines.

The checkpoints, according to Border Patrol, are efficient and effective, yet the ACLU said the number of apprehensions are down. The report stated agents are terrorizing motorists far into the interior. 

“They pulled out a knife and put it up to my seat belt,” Clarissa Christensen said.

Christensen lives 40 miles from the border. She said, while she was being questioned by Border Patrol agents, someone punctured her tire.

This happened in 2013. Five months ago, she filed complaints with the ACLU.  She's one of the numerous complaints ACLU has filed against the agency.

“Unfortunately, the government's own records are entirely consistent with those reports and include many additional complaints by Southern Arizona residents complaining of widespread abuse by border patrol agents,” James Lyall an ACLU  attorney said. 

Art Del Cueto is a Border Patrol agent.  He's head of the local 2544 that represents 3,000 agents in the Tucson sector. He said he's been involved with numerous internal investigations. 

“I can tell you that they are very thorough in the Tucson sector at all those investigations," Del Cueto said. "If nothing comes out of it,  it’s simply because  there either was nothing there or somebody was making a false allegation against these agents.”

The report also found there were numerous false canine alerts that led to searches of innocent people. 

“These drug dogs at the checkpoints are frequently wrong," said Lyall. "The alert to someone's car, they get pulled out of the car, searched, sometimes assaulted and sometimes their property is damaged by the dog in the process. That happens time and again.”

It happened to Del Cueto when he was off-duty. Two days before while at work, he helped agents carry out bundles of marijuana that had been seized.

“The dog alerted on my vehicle and they did a thorough inspection," he said. "They found the shirt I was wearing while I was working. It was underneath the seat and that's what the dogs alerted. That's what they are trained to do.”

Another complaint by the ACLU said they had to file a lawsuit in order to obtain the public records, which speaks  to the agency's continuing culture of secrecy and impunity.

Del Cueto said they have to file the same Freedom of Information Act to get their records. It often takes years for them to get that information.  He added he works for the Border Patrol.

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