- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Justice Department announced Thursday state and local police officers who work on joint operations with federal agencies can wear body cameras, reversing a longstanding ban and giving a victory for activists demanding more police accountability.

But the department’s ban on federal agents wearing body cameras will remain.

“After spending a substantial amount of time examining this issue, assessing the results of the pilot program, and taking into account the interests and priorities of all the law enforcement agencies involved, I am pleased to announce that the department will permit the use of body-worn cameras on our federal task forces in specific circumstances,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement.

Local officers working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Marshals and other federal agencies will now be permitted to wear body cameras while executing search warrants and during some arrests.

They will also be allowed to wear cameras during traffic stops, knocking down doors or other work that involves the use of force.

Under the new policy, officers can turn on the cameras while entering a house or confronting a suspect. However, they must be turned off while in the presence of undercover agents, cooperating witnesses and confidential informants.

Officers are also required to avoid using body cameras during high-level national security investigations, including some terrorism cases.

The footage will be stored with the Justice Department, but it can be shared with a local department if it is necessary for a disciplinary review. Recordings can also be released publicly if it records an officer-involved killing or another matter deemed to be of the public interest.

The Justice Department can also decide to block the release of the footage.

Roughly 14,000 local police officers are part of joint operations across the country investigating everything from violent crime to terrorism and large drug cases.

However, using local officers in such task forces without body cameras has caused tension between federal and local law enforcement.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields in May pulled 25 officers out of all federal task forces in the city because they weren’t allowed to wear cameras.

Last year, the police chief in St. Paul, Minnesota, also removed officers from joint task forces because of the lack of body cameras.

Other big-city departments had made similar threats.

The death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police earlier this year has spurred nationwide calls to overhaul policing in America.

Among the proposed changes is an increase in the use of body cameras and more accountability among local departments.

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