POLITICS

New Border Patrol chief more concerned about changing culture than building a wall

In this June 13, 2013 picture, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jerry Conlin looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right.  Illegal immigration into the United States would decrease by only 25 percent under a far-reaching Senate immigration bill, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that also finds the measure reduces federal deficits by billions. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

In this June 13, 2013 picture, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jerry Conlin looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right. Illegal immigration into the United States would decrease by only 25 percent under a far-reaching Senate immigration bill, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that also finds the measure reduces federal deficits by billions. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)  (AP2013)

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol doesn’t think that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s idea to build a massive wall along the country’s southern border will keep undocumented immigrants from entering the United States.

And at the moment, it is not a concern of his.

What it is a concern is changing the Border Patrol’s internal culture amid a series of scandals stemming from questionable shootings, allegations of corruption and a lack of accountability.

“It was a culture of not getting out and talking about issues, not being transparent about the process that drove the perception there was a culture problem,” Morgan, the first leader of the Border Patrol to come from outside the agency, told the Washington Post.

That’s why Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske chose the former FBI official and Los Angeles police officer to head the insular law enforcement agency, even as he tried to mollify any discontent from the rank-and-file.

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"In the case of the Border Patrol, the current leadership across the top, from headquarters to the field, consists of the finest group of men and women that I have worked with in my more than 40 years in law enforcement," Kerlikowske wrote in a memo to staff back in June after Morgan’s appointment was announced.

Morgan, however, is no stranger to the Border Patrol. In 2014, the FBI loaned Morgan to Customs and Border Protection to serve as acting assistant commissioner for internal affairs. He oversaw an extensive review of complaints of excessive use of force and employee misconduct.

On his first few weeks on the job, Morgan has met with agents at almost half of nation’s 20 border outposts and focused on ensuring that new use-of-force policies in the training academy curriculum that promote alternates to violence are being carried out.

He added that he is also working on helping agents gather better intelligence on the drug cartels and smugglers and working with other law enforcement agencies so that when a Border Patrol-related shooting does occur, a review system is implemented.

“The border patrol comes into contact with a lot more people than the FBI,” he said. “The piece we need to get better at when a shooting happens is, what happens now?...I don’t think we were very good at all about making decisions like whether the use of force was within our guidelines.”

In regards to security – and Trump’s controversial wall proposal – both Morgan and Kerlikowske took issue with building any more barriers along the southern border with Mexico.

Kerlikowske called the GOP nominee’s plan a “simplistic answer to an immensely complex problem” and added that the federal government already “spends a tremendous amount of money repairing what we have now” in reference to the 600 miles on intermittent fencing along the border.

Morgan, who as a civil servant will hold his post whether Trump or Clinton are in the White House next year, said that groundwork along the border does play a role in security, but it is not the only thing.

“Does infrastructure play a role? Of course,” Morgan said. “It’s one element of a multifaceted approach. It isn’t the answer.”

Then, he added, “I try not to be in the business of sound bites.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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