Phoenix ATF agents among first in federal body-worn camera program

Sep 2, 2021, 11:00 AM
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File) Follow @ktar923...
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)

PHOENIX – Agents in Phoenix were among the first federal law enforcement officers to be equipped with body-worn cameras under a new Department of Justice program.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in Phoenix and Detroit will wear the devices in pre-planned operations such as arrests and searches, the DOJ said in a press release Wednesday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service will be phased into the program in the coming weeks.

“Law enforcement is at its most effective when there is accountability and trust between law enforcement and the community,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the release.

“That is why we have expanded our body worn camera program to our federal agents, to promote transparency and confidence, not only with the communities we serve and protect, but also among our state, local and Tribal law enforcement partners who work alongside our federal agents each day.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco directed the federal agencies to develop policies for use the use of body-worn cameras on June 7.

The expectation is that footage from incidents that result in serious bodily injury or death will be made public in a timely fashion.

“I am confident that these policies will continue to engender the trust and confidence of the American people in the department’s work,” Monaco said in the release.

Last October, the DOJ formalized a new policy to allow local officers to wear body cameras during joint operations, which had reversed a policy that had strained its relationship with some law enforcement agencies. The issue had previously hit such a boiling point that Atlanta’s police chief had withdrawn city police officers from federal task forces over the issue.

But even as the DOJ made these major policy shifts to allow the use of a tool that has been common for years with most local police agencies, there has still been confusion about the process for local task force officers — and the length of time it will take to actually allow them to be worn in the field.

Agents who are assigned to ATF’s special response teams – the specialized tactical squads used to serve warrants on some of the most violent offenders in the U.S. – have not yet been assigned body cameras. An ATF spokesperson said all new agents in the academy are also being taught to use body cameras as part of their training program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Phoenix ATF agents among first in federal body-worn camera program