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ICE, Homeland Security Agents To Test Use Of Body Cameras

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced its intentions to begin a six-month pilot program that will see ICE law enforcement officers to test the usage of body cameras for “pre-planned operations.”

“With its body worn camera pilot, ICE is making an important statement that transparency and accountability are essential components of our ability to fulfill our law enforcement mission and keep communities safe,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained, noting the Department will continue to seek ways to “ensure the safety and security” of their workforce, partners, and the public.

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According to the ICE’s release, the deployment of the cameras will occur in phases throughout the U.S., beginning with 55 Homeland Security (HSI) special agents — part of a SWAT-like unit — in New Jersey, Texas, and New York. Enforcement and Removal Operations agents (ERO), who primarily deal with immigration, will then follow.

ICE stated that all participants in the program have been trained on how to use the body cameras, in addition to other training such as data storage, uploading, tagging, and retention. The cameras will be mounted on the participant’s outwear, which can include the vest, helmet, or shirt.

However, not everyone is on board with ICE’s operations. Speaking to CBS News, the National ICE Council president Chris Crane is opposed to the program, calling the agency’s timeline “ridiculous” while also saying they won’t be able to start the pilot anytime soon. Crane also blamed politicians for hastily rushing the pilot.

“Suspecting they may lose control of the House in the next election, Democrats on the Hill are forcing the program before it’s ready while they’re still in control. We don’t know enough about the feasibility of its use at ICE.”

Speaking to various reporters, an anonymous ICE senior official said that footage captured will be subjected to Freedom of Information Act requests, and will be available to defense lawyers in criminal cases.

The reporter also explained the program will be evaluating the effectiveness of the equipment and the overall costs. A summary of the pilot’s findings will be released to the public following the conclusion.

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These implementations are just the latest as more government agencies are starting to introduce body camera technology. In September, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) had agents use the equipment, becoming the first federal officers to do so. The Biden Administration also permitted the allocation of 6,000 cameras to agents in Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The use of body cameras by authorities has seen mixed results. In 2016, a Beauru of Justice survey reported that nearly half — or 47% — of all U.S. law enforcement agencies had worn body cameras, and two-thirds that didn’t possess cameras at the time said they were thinking of acquiring them.

Despite the high usage, a 2018 George Mason University survey found that cameras did not have “significant effects” on measures conducted by both officers and civilians, or civilians’ views of police officers. The study also stated mixed results when it came to reducing police brutality.