AG Barr Announces Body Cameras to Be Worn by Federal Task Forces

AG Barr Announces Body Cameras to Be Worn by Federal Task Forces
Attorney General William Barr speaks on Operation Legend, during a press conference in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 9, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski via Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday announced that the Justice Department will start allowing officers serving in federal task forces to wear body-worn cameras in specific circumstances.

“After spending a substantial amount of time examining this issue, assessing the results of the pilot program, and taking into account the interests and priorities of all the law enforcement agencies involved, I am pleased to announce that the department will permit the use of body-worn cameras on our federal task forces in specific circumstances,” Barr said in a statement.

“The Department of Justice has no higher priority than ensuring the safety and security of the American people and this policy will continue to help us fulfill that mission,” he said.

The adoption of the policy came after the department launched a pilot program to consider the use of body cameras on federal task forces. Several police departments—Houston Police Department, Detroit Police Department, Wichita Police Department, Salt Lake City Police Department, and Park City Police Department—participated in the pilot program, which lasted for eight months.

According to the policy (pdf), officers on task forces are only allowed to wear and activate their body cameras during a planned attempt to serve an arrest warrant or other planned arrests; and during the execution of a search warrant.

Meanwhile, the policy prohibits the recording of undercover personnel, confidential informants or confidential sources, on-scene witness interviews prior to or after the operation, personnel using specialized or sensitive investigative techniques or equipment, or on-scene actions by any non-law enforcement persons who are assisting law enforcement personnel prior to or after the operation.

The officers are also barred from using their body cameras when using specialized or sensitive investigative techniques, operating in a sensitive area, or working in an undercover or covert status on behalf of the federal task force or federal agency, the policy states.

In September, during a roundtable in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Barr told reporters that the use of body cameras is “a local issue for each police force and each community, the political leaders of the community, to decide upon.”

“But I think most law enforcement people I know who were originally skeptical of body cameras are now coming around to feeling they’re a net benefit,” he added.

The Justice Department said in its announcement that state or local agencies that would like to join the department’s body camera program can contact the special agent in charge of the federal agency sponsoring the task force or the federal district’s U.S. Marshal.