- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2018

The number of Customs and Border Protection employees facing discipline fell in 2017, the agency said in two new reports that are part of its efforts at improving transparency.

Cases processed dropped from 8,253 in fiscal year 2015 to 7,740 in 2016 and 7,239 last year. And about half of those cases ended up being unsubstantiated after investigation, the agency said. Of the rest where the allegation was substantiated, half received counseling.

Only 1,770 cases ended with some form of formal discipline — about 3 percent of CBP’s workforce. Those penalties ranged from a written reprimand — the most frequent discipline — to 70 fired, 26 terminated during a probation period, and 26 more given an indefinite suspension.

“The most important part to really take away from this is we’re talking about a fraction of the organization,” said Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner at the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The report, released late last week, covered 2016 and 2017. The agency said it intended to release the reports each year, but was so behind on 2016’s edition that it figured it would be better to release them together.

Officials said they intend to go to a yearly schedule in the future.

CBP has made a major effort at providing more information about employees’ behavior after fierce criticism from immigrant-rights groups and civil liberties organizations.

If anything, the agency now sees overreporting, with a number of allegations that don’t actually rise to the level of misconduct, Mr. Klein said.

“We’re really making sure folks have an avenue to report any type of misconduct,” he said.

While some of the misconduct was work-related, employees are also liable for off-duty behavior, including criminal entanglements.

Employees notched 254 total arrests last year. The biggest categories of offense were drug or alcohol issues, with 119 arrests, 51 domestic incidents, 14 people charged with some type of obstruction of justice and 15 with corruption.

Anyone convicted of a felony is required by law to be ousted from government service — leading to two firings in 2017.

CBP also saw a major increase in drug testing conducted last year, rising from 6,264 in 2016 to 7,416 in 2017, or about 13 percent of the workforce.

Just 13 people tested positive in 2017 — a drop from the year before — and all of them were tested because of reasonable suspicion of use. Four tested positive for marijuana, three for cocaine, two for amphetamines and one for codeine last year. Three other employees refused to submit to a test, which is the equivalent of a positive test, CBP said.

Of the 15 arrests last year for corruption, 10 cases were completed. They included a CBP officer who misused his database access and gave the information to foreigners; several Border Patrol agents involved in drug trafficking; and employees stealing from government fuel cards and official vacation time.

One CBP officer was also nabbed for smuggling an immigrant across the border illegally.

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