In a shift from the agency’s traditional policy, the Justice Department will now make its federal agents wear body cameras in certain circumstances, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Monday.
Monaco sent a memo to leaders of law enforcement acknowledging that “[a]lthough the Department’s law enforcement components do not regularly conduct patrols or routinely engage with the public in response to emergency calls, there are circumstances where the Department’s agents encounter the public during pre-planned law enforcement operations,” adding that the Justice Department “is committed to the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs) by the Department’ s law enforcement agents in such circumstances.”
Today, based on recommendations from the Department’s law enforcement components, I am directing the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Director of the Federal Bureau of lnvestigation, and the Director of the United States Marshals Service to develop and submit for review, within 30 days, component BWC policies that require agents to wear and activate BWC recording equipment for purposes of recording their actions during: (1) a pre-planned attempt to serve an arrest warrant or other pre-planned arrest, including the apprehension of fugitives sought on state and local warrants; or (2) the execution of a search or seizure warrant or order.
Monaco stated that each law enforcement component should create its policy “and a phased implementation plan for compliance with the above directive no later than 30 days” from the date of the memo. In addition, the components should “designate a senior official with responsibility for implementation and oversight of its BWC policy.”
The policies should include information on how agents should use the cameras, the types of body cameras that are authorized, plans for how to collect and store the footage, as well as “procedures for the expedited public release of recordings in cases involving serious bodily injury or death. They should also involve “specialized or sensitive investigative techniques or equipment that may require different treatment under the BWC policy.”
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, authorities at the Justice Department have previously taken the stance that the agents should not wear the devices due to the fact that most of their jobs involve investigations and many times include private sources.
In October, the Justice Department began permitting local and state police officers to use body cameras while they were carrying out some operations with federal law enforcement, per the Journal. The federal department, however, still didn’t allow their agents to wear them, stating that recordings could affect investigations involving sensitive matters.
Monaco also directed the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys to create “training for prosecutors regarding the use of BWC recordings as evidence, building on existing trainings related to the discovery implications of these recordings” within 90 days.
“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,” she concluded.
The move comes as law enforcement personnel around the country continue to operate under the watchful eyes of the public and mainstream media. Police officers around the country have had several encounters with citizens that later involved the use of body camera footage to decide whether or not the officer acted in the correct manner.
Last month, a North Carolina District Attorney R. Andrew Womble said that the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. during an encounter with law enforcement in April was “justified” after body camera footage showed the entire encounter.
As reported by CNN, “Three of the seven deputies on scene fired a total of 14 shots at Brown, according to Womble. He said Brown’s driving constituted a threat and justified the officers’ decision to shoot, offering an expansive interpretation of what officers are legally allowed to do.”
“When you employ a car in a manner that puts officers’ lives in danger, that is a threat,” Womble said. “And I don’t care what direction you’re going — forward, backwards, sideways. I don’t care if you’re stationary, and neither do our courts and our case law.”
Last week, body camera footage was released detailing an incident involving a mass shooter in California. The videos revealed the “extraordinary” and “exceptional” courage of five law enforcement officers, as reported by The Daily Wire.
“Body camera footage of the incident, released publicly [last week], shows two sheriff’s department personnel and three San Jose police officers arriving at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and making contact with the shooter in less than 4 and a half minutes,” The Daily Wire noted.