Border Patrol Looking To Become One Of The First Federal Agencies To Utilize Body Cameras
from the an-agency-in-need-of-additional-accountability-actually-accepts-it dept
Most of the nation’s law enforcement agencies seem to accept body-worn cameras as inevitable. The DOJ supports their use of body cameras and has set aside $20 million in funding assistance for state and local agencies.
However, the federal government doesn’t seem nearly as interested in equipping its own agencies with body cameras. FBI agents don’t wear them. Neither do DEA agents. US Marshals haven’t discussed any plans to implement the technology. And while it appears Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has at least entertained the idea, it has only done so with the forced politeness that greets unwanted — but familially-related — houseguests.
Customs and Border Protection staff concluded after an internal review that agents and officers shouldn’t be required to wear body cameras, positioning the nation’s largest law enforcement agency as a counterweight to a growing number of police forces that use the devices to promote public trust and accountability.
The yearlong review cited cost and a host of other reasons to hold off, according to two people familiar with the findings who spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been made public. It found operating cameras may distract agents while they’re performing their jobs, may hurt employee morale, and may be unsuited to the hot, dusty conditions in which Border Patrol agents often work.
Of all the excuses for not wearing body cameras, only the last has any merit. Law enforcement officers seem to have fought through the distractions “created” by several other recording devices (and certainly don’t appear concerned about the potential distracting effects of their outward-facing recording equipment) over the years. As for the morale damage… well, I’m sure we’ll all shed a few tears for officers whose actions over several years have resulted in current demands for greater accountability.
The CBP is no exception. The agency has been under additional scrutiny for its use of deadly force, thanks to its involvement in 40 deaths since 2010. While some deployments of deadly force were justified, other incidents involved CBP officers greeting thrown rocks with gunfire and deliberately standing in front of moving vehicles to create the justification needed to “discharge” their weapons.
Fortunately, the excuses have been dismissed. As Megan Geuss of Ars Technica reports, the CBP’s “thanks, but no thanks” response to body camera proposals was only the result of an early “feasibility study” and not reflective of the agency’s current views.
On Thursday the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner announced that the law enforcement agency would be moving forward with a plan to equip its ranks with body cameras. The cameras, Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said, would be used during “operations such as checkpoints, vessel boarding and interdictions, training academies, and outbound operations at ports of entry.” The commissioner added that CBP would also be assessing how it currently uses stationary and car-mounted cameras to see if additional cameras are needed.
The CBP could have dodged the additional accountability body cameras potentially offer. It had all the excuses lined up. But instead it chose to overcome its mostly self-imposed obstacles and expand the documentation of CBP officers’ interactions with members of the public. More encouragingly, the new report points out that body cameras will have a “wide variety of benefits” for the CBP. While many law enforcement and security officers tend to view body cameras as existential threats to their employment, they’ve already shown they can just as clearly capture the public’s “misconduct.”