US Border Patrol has 'alarming' alcohol problem, says internal memo and inside source

Alcohol awareness classes offered as a solution

SAN DIEGO - An internal memo obtained by Team 10 shows grave concern by the head of the U.S. Border Patrol about drinking and driving among agents.

The concerns are taken a step further in what an inside source told Team 10 about how agents report to work under the influence of alcohol.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher describes an "alarming" and "detrimental" alcohol problem within the federal police agency. Fisher details his concerns in an internal agency memo dated Oct. 4, 2013, obtained by Team 10.

Click to read the memo: http://bit.ly/HOmAGF

"The Border Patrol is averaging almost two alcohol-related arrests per week," Fisher writes. "This continued level and rate of alcohol-related arrests within our agency is alarming and detrimental to the overall well-being of our workforce."

Sources inside the U.S. Border Patrol claim agents not only drink and drive but carry automatic weapons while agents are intoxicated.

"People are showing up to work drunk," said one agent who spoke with Team 10 under the condition of anonymity. "I want to see this addressed and to end the secrecy of what's going on."

The inside source made claims that San Diego-based agents are drinking and driving.

"We've had agents who have said to supervisors, 'I think I'm still drunk' and they still get the keys to their car and automatic weapons," the source said.

San Diego Border Patrol Sector Chief Paul Beeson said he has not seen any reports confirming drunk agents being assigned weapons and patrol cars.

Beeson agreed to talk about the alcohol issue, but would not talk about other issues facing the agency. Team 10 has previously reported on how the Border Patrol trains and background checks agents.

"What I'm aware of is that if an instance like that were to occur, supervisors are not going to let them go out in the field," Beeson said. "Policy prohibits it."

(See Beeson's interview today on 10News At 5:00.)

There are 21,294 Border Patrol agents nationwide according to agency records. The agency would double in size if comprehensive immigration reform is passed.

Beeson said the alcohol-related incidents involving Border Patrol agents represent a small minority of the entire federal police force.

"If you do the math on the numbers that you just mentioned it comes out to half a percent of the entire workforce," he said. "But again one arrest regardless of the reason is unacceptable."

Beeson said so far this year, nine San Diego-based agents have been arrested for drinking and driving. He oversees more than 2,600 agents.

Beeson said he has provided his agents his personal cell phone number to stop them from driving drunk.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, all Border Patrol agents will take mandatory alcohol-awareness classes. The alcohol awareness program is called the Michael V. Gallagher project, named after an agent who was killed by a drunk driver in 2010 while on duty.

Beeson said the training will decrease the number of alcohol-related incidents in the Border Patrol.

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