The Justice Department will allow state and local police officers to wear body cameras during some joint operations with federal law enforcement, ending a ban that frustrated police chiefs who require them for public accountability, the Wall Street Journal reports. DOJ officials say allowing local officers to use the cameras will provide more transparency about the work of federal task forces. Federal agents themselves still will be banned from wearing them, illustrating how the federal government has struggled to craft rules on body cameras despite calls from lawmakers after police killings of Black people prompted protests.
While more police departments require officers to wear body cameras, the federal government says recording agents’ work would jeopardize sensitive investigations. Some police chiefs withdrew officers from federal task forces because they couldn’t wear the devices. There was no body-camera footage of a Washington, D.C., police officer hitting a bicyclist Tuesday while heading to arrest a homicide suspect because the plainclothes officer iwas part of a federal fugitive task force, said Police Chief Peter Newsham. DOJ softened its stance after a pilot program in five midsize-to-large cities that began in January. Officers will now be able to wear cameras while executing search warrants and during some arrests, work that can involve knocking down doors or stopping vehicles and could require officers to use force. Officers can turn on the cameras when they enter a house or confront a suspect. They must turn them off in the presence of undercover agents, confidential informants and cooperating witnesses; they must also leave them behind during missions involving national-security concerns.