SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing the use of body cameras by agents on Oct. 1 at its training academy in Artesia, New Mexico. The White House has said requiring law enforcement officers to wear cameras could be a way to ease mistrust by the public.
WHY BODY CAMERAS?
Body cameras — small, lapel- or vest-mounted gadgets that record law enforcement interactions with the public — are gaining attention after the shooting of an unarmed black man last month by police in Ferguson, Missouri. The U.S. Justice Department says there is evidence that police and civilians behave better when cameras are present. In addition, footage can quickly resolve civilian complaints and lawsuits, and be used to train officers.
On the flip side, cameras are expensive and raise privacy concerns for officers and civilians.
WHO USES BODY CAMERAS?
The number of police agencies using cameras has grown, partly because the technology has become smaller and easier to use. When the New York Police Department announced a test run this month, Commissioner William Bratton predicted the devices would soon become as commonplace as police radios and bulletproof vests. Other police departments testing the cameras include Dallas and Los Angeles.
WHY THE BORDER PATROL?
Cameras gained traction under new Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief who has moved more aggressively than his predecessors to address widespread allegations of excessive force and misconduct among border agents and inspectors.
Customs and Border Protection's new head of internal affairs, Mark Morgan, said last week that an initial review of hundreds of use-of-force incidents and accusations of misconduct by personnel since 2009 found 155 cases that merited more investigation, including one that resulted in death.
In May, Kerlikowske ordered the release of a highly critical report commissioned by the agency on 67 incidents involving use of deadly force from January 2010 to October 2012.
The Border Patrol will test a variety of cameras and consider privacy issues such as when the devices should be turned on and off.
The National Border Patrol Council, which represents the vast majority of the roughly 21,000 agents, would need to sign off on camera use in the field.
The union says cameras could cause agents to hesitate when their lives are threatened, and managers could use them for fishing expeditions to punish certain agents.