First Justice Department agents will wear body cameras
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has identified the first set of federal agents to wear body cameras under a new policy that reversed a yearslong ban, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday.
The agents, who work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix and Detroit, will wear the cameras for pre-planned operations like arrests and searches. It is the first step under a Justice Department policy enacted earlier this year that requires all of its federal agents to wear body cameras when executing arrest warrants or searching buildings. The program is being slowly phased in.
Last October, the Justice Department formalized a new policy to allow local officers to wear body cameras during joint operations, which had reversed a policy that had strained its relationship with some law enforcement agencies. The issue had previously hit such a boiling point that Atlanta’s police chief had withdrawn city police officers from federal task forces over the issue.
But even as the Justice Department made these major policy shifts to allow the use of a tool that has been common for years with most local police agencies, confusion exists about the process for local task force officers – and the length of time it will take to actually allow them to be worn in the field.
Only federal agents assigned to the two field offices have been assigned cameras, though the Detroit office covers the entire state of Michigan, and the Phoenix division covers other nearby cities, too. The cameras were not used Wednesday but would be used in those divisions going forward, an ATF spokesperson said.