DOJ’s law enforcement arms, which includes the US Marshals Service (USMS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have not publicly released their plans for implementing the use of body-worn cameras, months after they were reportedly supposed to submit them, following widespread criticism of the DOJ’s handling of law enforcement encounters. Agencies’ failure to release the required plans is a disappointing failure of accountability, which has and will continue to have deadly consequences.
CREW has requested records from the DOJ’s law enforcement components, specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, and the USMS on their body-worn camera policies that they were supposed to submit following a memo the DOJ sent out on June 7, 2021 with a 30 day deadline requiring its law enforcement arms to submit plans for the use of body-worn cameras.
Between January 2015 and September 10, 2020 alone, at least 177 individuals were shot by either a US Marshal, a US Marshal task force member, or a local police officer assisting the Marshal Service with an arrest. 124 of those 177 marshal-involved shootings were fatal. Although many local law enforcement agencies have adopted the routine use of body-worn cameras, local police officers assigned to federal task forces were strictly prohibited from using their recording devices until October 2020, when the DOJ issued a directive reversing the ban. Despite this policy change concerning local task force members, DOJ’s law enforcement components, including the ATF, DEA, FBI, and USMS, were still under no obligation to institute their own body-worn camera policies until June of this year.
The June 7th DOJ memo should have led to more transparency around body-worn camera policies, but the failure of agencies to release plans by the deadline highlights the failures of accountability that led to the call for changes in the first place. The public should know about any DOJ agencies’ body-worn camera policies, if agencies have them at all.