The Oklahoman

First Justice Department agents will wear body cameras

- Michael Balsamo

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has identified the first 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 first 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 officers 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 The issue had previously hit such a boiling point that Atlanta’s police chief had withdrawn city police officers from federal task forces over the issue.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 officers – and the length of time it will take to actually allow them to be worn in the field.

Only federal agents assigned to the two field offices have been assigned cameras, though the Detroit office 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.

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