Former CBP Officers Speaks Out on Current K9 Operations
BROWNSVILLE – It's just before noon at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS cameras roll as people cross the border. No K-9 can be seen on patrol – neither southbound nor northbound.
A retired CBP officer told CHANNEL 5 NEWS that's a problem.
"Ninety percent of the time there are no (K9) officers assigned at the four bridges at the Port of Brownsville," the retired officer said. "These officers are assigned with a K9, and they are looking for money, weapons and ammunition. Ninety percent of the time there's nothing going on there. It's an open market for the money smugglers, and weapon smugglers headed south."
He agreed to speak to us as long as his identity was concealed. He acts as the watchdog for officers currently working for the government, he said and doesn't want to jeopardize that.
He claims on Friday, Nov. 24, K9 handlers were ordered to put their K9 officers in their kennels and were assigned other bridge duties, instead of looking for contraband.
"I can recall years ago, when the informants – and we're talking about informants who would convey their concerns to our agents – they don't fear technology, they fear the dog," he said. "If you've got a dog team out there, and they love what they are doing and are consistent, they are successful."
We reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to find out if this is happening and why.
They did not speak to us on camera, but CBP supervisor Elias Rodriguez sent us a statement:
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection adjusts staffing, resources in a manner commensurate with fluctuations in traffic volume, workload, and operational priorities. For security reasons, we do not elaborate on such periodic adjustments but all is done to advance CBP's border security mission while facilitating lawful trade and travel."
Early last year, CHANNEL 5 NEWS sat down with Port Director Petra Horne to ask about the same issue. This is what she told us about the alleged shortage of k9s on patrol, then:
"I am very confident that I have assessed our port of entry, and are deploying to ensure that we have the right coverage wherever we need it."
The retired CBP officer, with over 20 years of experience with K9s, isn't convinced the borders are being protected effectively.
"Their sense of smell is 10,000 times better than ours," he said. "They're able to detect a minute amount of marijuana, cocaine, heroin. I've seen firsthand where technology will miss a load in an X-ray machine and the dog tells us it's in there."
He said he’s written to U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela and Sen. Ted Cruz asking them to take a closer look at K9 border operations in Brownsville.