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About-face

Justice Department directs federal law enforcement to wear body cameras when executing warrants

The Justice Department said Monday it will require agents with the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to wear body cameras and activate them when executing arrest or search warrant, or during other pre-planned operations. The heads of those agencies will have 30 days to draft and submit body-camera policies, including how long video footage should be stored and the conditions under which it should be released publicly. 

Federal law enforcement has been barred from wearing body cameras, even as more local law enforcement require their officers to wear them. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced in a memo that the Justice Department has reversed that policy. Former Attorney General William Barr started loosening the prohibition in 2019, and last October he started allowing state and local law enforcement to use body cameras when on joint operations with federal agents. Before that, they had to turn off the cameras when working with the feds.

"The Department of Justice recognizes that transparency and accountability in law enforcement operations builds trust with the communities we serve," Monaco wrote.