DOJ ends policy that prohibited federal officers from using body-worn cameras

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    (CNN) — The Justice Department will require federal agents to wear and activate cameras whenever encountering the public “during pre-planned law enforcement operations,” according to a memo issued by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

As a part of the Justice Department’s continued efforts to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, Monaco reversed a long-standing department policy against federal agents wearing body cameras. In October 2020, then-Attorney General William Barr permitted state and local law enforcement officers assisting federal task forces to wear cameras but still barred federal agents from doing so.

Situations that will now require body cameras may include serving arrest warrants, executing other planned arrest operations and executing search warrants, according to the memo.

Monaco’s memo follows a deadly shooting in Minnesota last week during which Winston Boogie Smith Jr. was fatally shot during an arrest attempt by two sheriff’s deputies serving with the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force. The law enforcement officers involved were not wearing body cameras since the US Marshals Service started to “phase-in” the October 2020 policy in February, according to a news release on Saturday.

Monaco directed the leaders of federal law enforcement agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the US Marshals to develop and submit to the Justice Department their own policies in 30 days on how they’ll use body-worn cameras and to “designate a senior official with responsibility for implementation and oversight of its BWC policy.”

In 90 days, Monaco says, the Executive Office for US Attorneys should develop training for prosecutors regarding the use of body-worn camera recordings as evidence, building on existing trainings related to the discovery implications of these recordings.

“I am proud of the job performed by the Department’s law enforcement agents, and I am confident that these policies will continue to engender the trust and confidence of the American people in the work of the Department of Justice,” Monaco wrote in the memo.

The call for law enforcement officers to wear body cameras has increased especially after the 2020 deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other people of color.

Law enforcement experts, such as Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, say video of incidents involving the use of force by police are critical training tools for improving effectiveness at departments across the country.

The Justice Department aims to invest $1.3 billion in community policing, which includes $13.6 million for Task Force Officer Body Worn Camera Support.

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