Norton, Beyer introduce bill to require uniformed federal police officers to wear body cameras

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced a bill to require uniformed federal police officers to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in police vehicles.

The District of Columbia and Fairfax County both require officers to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in marked vehicles.  Norton and Beyer want to adopt this policy at the federal level to ensure transparency and protect officers and the public alike. The Washington Post has reported that federal authorities are prohibiting local police from participating in joint federal and local task forces if they wear body cameras, and several police departments have pulled out of these task forces as a result.  Norton and Beyer are preparing legislation to ensure federal police work with state and local police who use body and dashboard cameras.

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Credit: W.Scott McGill

Norton and Beyer have closely followed developments in the November 2017 shooting of unarmed 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police officers.  Ghaisar was fatally shot in his car by Park Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, after he fled a car crash in the District and was pursued by officers down George Washington Parkway.  Footage of the shooting was released by the Fairfax County Police Department, which captured it on a cruiser’s dashboard camera.  Without that footage, Ghaisar’s family and the public would have had no access to the circumstances surrounding Ghaisar’s death.

“Evidence consistently shows that body cameras help determine the facts and increase transparency of policing across the country,” Norton said.  “The federal government is late acknowledging that state and local law enforcement, including D.C.’s Metropolitan Police, already utilize best practices with encouraging results.  These measures have been successful.  Without access to these new tools, families like the Ghisars would be left wondering what transpired and who should be held accountable.  Particularly in the District, where there are many federal officers, including those with local policing powers, we must ensure federal officers are held as accountable to the public for their actions as local and state police.”

“Body cameras increase the transparency and public trust in law enforcement, and all federal police should wear them,” Beyer said.  “The still-unexplained killing of Bijan Ghaisar shows how important it is to make these reforms, which will benefit victims’ families, officers, and the communities they serve.  Without the body camera footage from local police, the Ghaisars still would have almost no information about the death of their son.  No one else should have to go through the living nightmare which they have experienced for the past 19 months, and this bill would help prevent it from happening again.”



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