Interior Dept. to require body cams for law enforcement
The federal government has lagged behind many local PDs whose officers have been using body cameras for years
By Michael Balsamo
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Interior Department on Monday launched a set of new policies that would require thousands of law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, ensures the release of footage in some critical incidents and restricts the use of so-called no-knock warrants.
The policies apply to the thousands of law enforcement officers who work for the Interior Department, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. The agency has about 3,100 permanent law enforcement officers.
While some federal agencies have already started launching body camera programs – including some park rangers, park police officers and Fish and Wildlife officers – the federal government has lagged behind many local police departments whose officers have been using body cameras for years.
One of the new policies specifically requires all Interior Department law enforcement officers who are patrolling or engaging with the public to carry body-worn cameras and sets out the department’s intent to expedite the public release of video after an incident that results in serious injury or death.
Under the policy, officers or agents are required to activate the body-worn cameras “at the earliest possible opportunity of an interaction and should capture as much of the event as possible, starting with the decision to engage an individual or vehicle.” The camera should remain running until the event is over, the policy states.
The policy says the Interior Department “will strive to expedite the public release” of footage after incidents that involve “serious bodily injury or death in order to promote transparency and accountability.”
Another of the policies restricts the use of “no-knock” warrants, which allow law enforcement agents to enter a home without announcing their presence. A no-knock warrant, as its name implies, is an order from a judge that allows police to enter a home without prior notification to the residents, such as ringing a doorbell or banging on the door. In most cases, the law requires that officers must knock and announce themselves before entering a private home to execute a search warrant.
The policy curtails the use of no-knock entries to instances where announcing the presence of federal officers “would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person,” the Interior Department said. It also requires agents to first obtain approval from supervisors and a federal prosecutor before seeking a no-knock warrant.
The new policies also provide additional guidance on use of force incidents, laying out that its policy would meet or exceed the policies set out by the Justice Department. It also requires the law enforcement agencies to collect and report data about the number of use of force incidents and reiterates a ban on carotid restraints and chokeholds, except when deadly force has been authorized.