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Norton, Beyer Applaud Justice Department’s New Body-Camera Policy, Coinciding with Their Bills

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) applauded the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement yesterday of a pilot program for body-worn cameras by federally deputized task force officers.  Under the new pilot program, “federally deputized task force officers [will] use body-worn cameras while serving arrests warrants, or other planned arrest operations, and during the execution of search warrants.”  The DOJ said the program will go into effect in selected cities on November 1, 2019.

Norton and Beyer had raised concerns after the Washington Post reported that federal authorities were prohibiting local police from participating in joint federal and local task forces if they wear body cameras and, as a result, several police departments have pulled out of these task forces. Norton and Beyer introduced two bills to address these issues.  The first bill would require all uniformed federal police officers to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in police vehicles. The second bill would prohibit the federal government from refusing to work with local police departments that require their officers to wear body cameras.

“I am grateful to the DOJ for recognizing the importance of body cameras and for moving to begin implementing them,” Norton said.  “In effect, the pilot program is almost where our two bills would take the body camera issue.  Further, the pilot program shows that the DOJ has administrative authority to proceed with body camera implementation on its own.  The experience of jurisdictions that already use body cameras prove that the ‘pilot program’ the DOJ has just begun should be expanded.  Body cameras have already definitively been shown to be effective for law enforcement and residents alike to increase transparency as well as trust in the police.  All the DOJ needs to do now is to go the full way.”

“It is good that the Justice Department is taking this step, but far more action is required,” Beyer said. “DOJ should not only stop hindering police departments from adopting body cameras, but aggressively promote their use among local, state, and federal officers. Congress should lead in this area by passing our legislation, which would help pave the way to more transparent policing in this country.”