The DOJ has failed to release any records or policies about its use of body-worn cameras by its law enforcement arms, demonstrating a staggering lack of accountability for correcting and preventing law enforcement misconduct. Following the department’s failure to respond to previous FOIA requests, CREW is suing the DOJ for records of all body-worn camera policies and records of their implementation and oversight within DOJ law enforcement components, particularly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Marshals Service (USMS).
On June 7, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco instructed all DOJ enforcement components to develop body-worn camera policies within 30 days. On September 1, the DOJ launched the first phase of the Body-Worn Camera Program, aiming to “engender the trust and confidence of the American people in the department’s work,” according to Monaco. However, the DOJ has failed to publicly release any of the policies, showing a clear disregard for transparency.
Between January 1, 2015 and September 15, 2020, at least 177 people were shot by a US Marshal, US Marshal task force member, or a local police officer assisting the USMS. 124 of the shootings were fatal, according to an investigation by the Marshall Project. While other police departments have made records on shootings and officer misconduct public, the DOJ refused to release any information in March 2020.
Law enforcement agencies should be following DOJ directives, especially when lives are at stake. While the implementation of body-worn cameras could lead to greater accountability for these shootings and killings, without policy and records there can be no improved transparency or trust.
January 21, 2022