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​CBS News investigates sex abuse by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents

CBS News has learned of a troubling increase in sexual assault cases involving agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Investigation: Sex assault by Customs and Border Protection agents 03:19

As part of its reporting on cases of sex abuse involving members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), CBS News submitted several questions to the agency. Though the agency declined an on-camera interview, they provided us with some answers detailed below.

Number of Complaints

In a statement, CBP told CBS News that since the beginning of 2009 there have been 285 documented complaints or allegations related to some form of sexual misconduct on the part of CBP officers or agents. Of the 285 complaints, 44 are still ongoing open investigations.

How many female agents does CBP employ?

CBP recently began a hiring push to employ more female Border Patrol agents. As of March 2015, only 5% of Border Patrol agents were women. This is the lowest percentage of women agents in any federal law enforcement agency. Eleven percent of agents in the Secret Service are women and 19% of agents in the FBI are women.

CBP says its recent push for hiring women "supports CBP's overall recruiting strategy which is to diversify employee ranks..." The agency says that getting "the very best people for the job" "includes placing women in frontline positions to remain competitive with modern professional law enforcement operations."

CBP Adopts "Zero Tolerance Policy"

CBP says that as of March 2015, it adopted a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse and assault. They say that means that "all allegations of sexual abuse/assault against detainees" are immediately reported to executives and the offices at DHS that oversee civil rights as well as to the Inspector General. The policy says that "employees who violate the prohibition against sexual abuse" "will be subject to disciplinary or adverse action". And they say "criminal misconduct by employees will be referred for investigation and potential prosecution, as appropriate".

CBP Treatment of People in Custody

The agency told CBS News that "there is no room for the mistreatment or misconduct of any kind towards those in custody. CBP is committed to protecting the safety of individuals in CBP custody and it is CBP policy to provide effective safeguards against sexual abuse and assault for individuals in CBP custody."

Statement from CBP On Integrity

"Commissioner Kerlikowske has taken steps to make transparency and accountability hallmarks of his tenure at CBP. One of the primary ingredients of transparency, of course, is integrity. Last September, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson delegated to CBP the authority - for the first time ever - to investigate employees for alleged criminal misconduct. CBP also formed an Integrity Advisory Panel under the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council."

How Can People Make a Complaint?

CBP gave CBS News a few options for people to use to file a complaint against a CBP officer or Border Patrol agent. However, CBS News learned that the first number they suggested 1-877-2INTAKE does not have any operators who speak Spanish. CBP also suggested sending an email. In addition they offered the phone number of the Inspector General 1-800-323-8603 and their email as well. CBS News found operators at the Inspector General do speak Spanish. CBP also provided the following mailing addresses:

PO Box 14475 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington DC 20044

Dept of Homeland Security, Washington DC 20528 Attn: Office of Inspector General Hotline

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