With grand military pomp and ceremony, command of the Havre Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol was passed to a new chief patrol agent Tuesday.
Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher passed the military standard, the guidon, to new Chief Patrol Agent Christopher Richards at the patrol station west of Havre in front of an unexpectedly large crowd — agents hurried to bring in additional chairs as the seating overflowed before the ceremony started.
Attendees included Border Patrol and Customs and Immigration officials, other chief patrol agents, his Havre sector agents, other local law enforcement officials including a representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and community leaders and residents.
Richards, former deputy chief patrol agent in Havre before taking a job at Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, told the crowd that it was difficult to explain his feelings.
“I cannot express what a great honor it is to be standing before you as chief patrol agent for the Havre Sector,” Richards said. “The reason for this is I have been given the responsibility to lead a sector in the United States Border Patrol, an organization that in my own opinion is one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the world.”
Fisher said during the ceremony that he — and the staff involved in the rigorous screening and processing of the numerous applications for each chief patrol agent position — have full confidence in Richards.
“Abraham Lincoln said many years ago, he said, ‘Nearly all can stand adversity. If you want to test a man’s character, give him power,’” Fisher said. “I feel very confident standing before you here today. … His character is above reproach.”
Richards said agency has changed since he joined the Patrol, a third-generation agent following in his grandfather and father’s footsteps, Richards said.
“During my career, the Border Patrol has undergone remarkable changes,” he said.
“We have grown from a force of less than 4,000 agents back in 1986, when I first began, to our current strength of more than 21,000.
“But the changes haven’t been only in personnel,” he added “The technology that we employ today is so sophisticated, our current capabilities would have been difficult for us to comprehend 25 years ago.”
He said a primary focus will be in gathering information. The Border Patrol is shifting to a risk-based strategy, which means focusing on areas where criminal activity is not just possible, but is probable, Richards said.
He referred to a Senate field hearing hosted by Sen. Jon Tester, and attended by Rep. Steve Daines, in Havre two weeks ago. Richards was part of a panel that included Hill County Sheriff Don Brostrom.
“And Congressman Daines asked an interesting question,” Richards said. “He said, ‘Sheriff, what is it that keeps you up at night?’ And the sheriff’s answer was, ‘Not knowing what I don’t know,’” Richards said. “Sheriff, that was a very powerful answer, because, to me, that captures the essence of what will be my focus in the Havre Sector as we move forward.”
He pledged to continue to work to join his resources with the other local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies to join their resources to increase safety and security.
Richards also thanked his family, who stood on stage while Fisher pinned on his new badge, for the sacrifices they had made to support his career.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Richards said.