- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Some U.S. border agents have started wearing body cameras in a test of the technology in the field, officials said on Friday.

Roughly three dozen cameras are being worn by personnel on a volunteer basis during a 90-day test period at locations in New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Michigan and Washington state, said U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief Donna Twyford.

The test aims to help Customs and Border Protection determine whether cameras can be used in the field. Authorities previously tried out the equipment during training, said Twyford, who heads the agency’s working group on the cameras.

The agency tasked with manning the country’s borders, ports and airports announced the plan to test out cameras after fielding complaints about the use of force.

After the test, the working group will analyze legal issues, privacy concerns and any other policy issues, Twyford said. The cameras can be mounted on the head or chest and can record for between four and six hours, she said.

Testing began in January. Test sites include a checkpoint in Texas and a border patrol station in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Benjamine Huffman, deputy chief of the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, said the cameras give agents an opportunity to show what a good job they’re doing and “will allow the American public to look over our shoulder while we’re working.”

The agency has been discussing the use of cameras with employee unions. Union officials have raised concerns about whether the cameras could be used to look for administrative violations.

“We have concerns about how they will be used,” said Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the border patrol agents’ union. “We also believe they have not done adequate testing.”

A message was left for the union representing other CBP employees.

Last year, Customs and Border Protections’ new internal affairs head Mark Morgan said an initial review of cases involving use of force and alleged misconduct by agents and inspectors since 2009 found 155 that merit further investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the use of cameras. Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, said they “will help protect abuse victims, and if used appropriately these cameras will help ensure that CBP’s interaction with community members is fair and lawful.”

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