'Body Cameras for Thee—but Not When You're With Me'

Bureaucracy turns Department of Justice into hilarious hypocrites


Most transparent administration ever alert

The Department of Justice is pushing hard for law enforcement agencies to start wearing body cameras to improve transparency and relationships with the community. They're even offering grants to police departments to help them implement programs (though said body camera programs don't actually have to be good or improve transparency about police conduct to the public).

But the Wall Street Journal has discovered a problem that's kind of funny and kind of sad: Because the Department of Justice hasn't developed its own policies for body camera use, federal law enforcement agencies like U.S. Marshals don't want to partner with any officers that are actually using them in task forces:

The contradiction reveals the potential challenges for federal agencies that work closely with local police, such as the U.S. Marshals. And it underscores how slow the Obama administration has been to craft its own rules on cameras, even as it pushes local authorities to quickly adopt them in the wake of high-profile police shootings.

At a meeting of Marshals supervisors several weeks ago in Colorado, Assistant Director Derrick Driscoll announced that the agency wouldn't allow any local law-enforcement officers wearing body cameras to serve on Marshals task forces, according to several people who attended the meeting.

The Marshals Service, an agency within the Justice Department, runs scores of task forces around the country, teaming up with local police primarily to hunt fugitives and violent criminals.

Mr. Driscoll said at the meeting that because the Justice Department hadn't given his agency rules on body cameras, the Marshals couldn't allow local police with recording equipment to work alongside them on task forces, the people who attended the meeting said. That's because when local officers join task forces, they must follow federal rules of operation, and for now that means no body cameras.

These task forces are not uncommon and are used to tackle gang problems and for drug sweeps. The failure of the DOJ to set rules in place means that if one of these police actions go awry, there may not be decent footage to see what actually happened.

If the DOJ is looking for tips on how to implement body cameras on their own agents, check out this "best practices" guide by former Reasoner Matthew Feeney, now a political analyst for the Cato Institute. 

(Hat tip to former Reason editor Radley Balko.)

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  1. If the DOJ is looking for tips on how to implement body cameras on their own agents

    That’s a big “If”, Scott, but if they are they should start with outfitting Loretta Lynch.

  2. Bringing up the 72 Dolphins in a discussion about the greatest team ever? C’mon. They are the only undefeated team. They get to hold on to that. But nobody seriously brings them up when they discuss the best ever. They had the easiest schedule in history. The ’85 Bears lost 1 game AND won the Super Bowl. There’s a string of other teams that get mentioned, and rightfully so, ahead of the 72 Dolphins.

  3. But the Wall Street Journal has discovered a problem that’s kind of funny and kind of sad

    It’s not that funny, Scott.

    1. Sometimes you have to throw it all away for a Tears for Fears reference.

      1. It’s a mad, mad world, X.

        1. Help me to decide, Epi. Help me to make the most of freedom and of pleasure; nothing ever lasts forever.

          Everybody wants to rule the world.

  4. Anything that breaks up these “task forces” is a good thing. Mixing a bunch of LEOs together in a big jug never results in anything good; it just means even less accountability as there are so many more places for fingers to be pointed after the next epic fuckup.

    But that being said, is anyone surprised that the DOJ is trying to apply rules to local law enforcement while not doing the same to itself? I mean, at all?

    1. This won’t break up the task forces, Epi. The local PDs will just write a rule allowing them to leave the bodycam at the station house when they go out kicking doors with the Marshalls or the DEA. I mean they wouldn’t want to miss out on that sweet sweet federal teat, would they?

      1. That’s it, Hugh, I’m calling 911. You’ve made me uncomfortable by telling the truth, and I can’t have that.

        1. SAFE FUCKING SPACES, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1. Can we get some muscle over here?

            1. Warty! STEVE SMITH! Over here and move these people out!

      2. Asset forfeiture is a wonderful thing for the cops. Locals are co-opted by the feds (Marshals, DEA, etc.) by being promised a cut of the loot that is legally stolen from ‘suspicious people’, no charges or convictions required to take their property.

  5. OT: Yellen says research needed on unconventional policy tools

    “Policymakers have to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of alternative monetary implementation frameworks in the presence of new policy tools [and should also be] mindful of new channels for monetary policy transmission that may have emerged from the intricate economic and financial linkages in our global economy that were revealed by the crisis,” she said.

    Once again — would someone *kindly* explain exactly what Janet Yellen *does*?

    1. She explains things. In language designed to not indicate any move one way or the other, until that move is either made or not made. And it’s data-driven.

        1. BTW, this is why we shouldn’t listen to Billionaires as “luminaries”.

          In the not-too-distant future, humans in the workplace could go the way of the horse-and-buggy because of the “exponential growth of artificial intelligence,” billionaire Jeff Greene said Thursday.

          “When we first had the internal combustion engine ? the horseless carriages, the car was called ? look at all the horses they just put out to pasture,” he said, making an ominous comparison to the present-day advances in automation. “We are going to be destroying jobs at a record clip.”


          1. The funny thing is, I’ve been told there are as many horses in the US now as there were back in the early 1900s.

            1. I think the stat was for horse’s asses, and we have many more.

    2. Crowd control.

    3. Nothing. Understand now?

      1. You mean she doesn’t even do her own *hair*?!

        1. That’s not even Michael Nesmith’s real hat!

          1. Kids can be so cruel.

  6. The policy on bodycams should be about five sentences long, at most:

    You will wear your bodycam and have it turned on and functioning whenever you are on duty.

    You are not to turn it off under any circumstnaces when you are on duty, or attempt to erase or alter any bodycam footage.

    If a complaint is made and your bodycam was not on and functioning, you will be suspended without pay until the complaint is resolved, and you will bear the burden of proof for any factual disputes relating to the incident.

    The bodycam will be turned in at the end of every shift for downloading.

    Any evidence of tampering or attempted tampering with a bodycam will lead to suspension without pay while it is being investigated. If tampering was attempted or accomplished, you will be fired.

    1. You forgot the part where they will be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law for any illegal activity they engage in that is captured by the bodycam.

      1. “Hey, boinking the Captain’s wife isn’t illegal!”

        1. But of course it’s not acceptable when you’re on duty. Save it for after work.

        2. Have you seen what Tennille looks like lately? It should be illegal. And she’s like 75, you sicko!

    2. “Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

    3. I’m sorry my arm was blocking the lens. It’s just the position I was trained to hold when shooting/tasing a victi…I mean suspect.

    4. Accountability is just one front in the war on cops.

    5. There’s a union involved here, RC. There’s going to be some take-and-take with that policy.

      1. Needz MOAR TAKE!

    6. You will wear your bodycam and have it turned on and functioning whenever you are on duty.

      There shouldn’t be any control to allow the goon to turn it off. I’d rephrase that as “You will wear your body cam and keep it unobstructed whenever on duty.”

  7. So the feds conscript local law enforcement and then override local rules about the behavior of law enforcement.

  8. Violation of the Magna Carta.

    Of course the Feds must wear cameras. Anyone doing any form of apprehension or law enforcement needs to be recorded.

    1. Thanks for the stellar observation, sockpuppet.

  9. Well, there you have it: the US Marshals are crooks.


    1. All cops who participate in asset forfeiture activity are crooks…

  10. The failure of the DOJ to set rules in place means that if one of these police actions go awry, there may not be decent footage to see what actually happened.

    I am truly shocked that this attempt at transparency and accountability in law enforcement features such an unfortunate bug. Wait a second….bug…feature…hmmmm….

  11. start with outfitting Loretta Lynch.

    So she can stand by her man?

  12. Hey, U.S. Marshalls. If you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem ?

  13. Glibertarian momentz:

    EVERETT, Wash. – Snohomish County health officials voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to ban vaping and electronic cigarettes in public places.

    As part of the new regulations, anyone under the age of 18 cannot buy or posess vapor products. Stores that sell vaping products need to carry permits, must have their own independent ventilation systems and cannot have counter seating for more than five people.

    Tuesday’s vote draws to a close months of public meetings and debates. Critics and shop owners argued the ban could force some smoke shops to close.

    King, Pierce, Grant and Clark counties already ban e-cigarette smoking in public.

    Store owners have six months to obtain the proper permits, which range from $145 to $350, said Heather Thomas, spokeswoman for the health department.


    1. As annoying as that is, the e-cig ban is ignored with total impunity here. Total.

      1. I’ve noticed that. Because dumbass me, the KC ban was passed quite some time ago.

        So, like all arbitrarily enforced laws, we sit, looking over our shoulders, wondering when the hammer’s gon’ come down.

      2. Wait, people are roundly ignoring an unenforceable law? If I wasn’t repeatedly informed otherwise by the mouth-breathing skunk eaters on this forum I might almost think that THE LIBTARDIAN MOMENT encompassed more than the rules written down by people who presume authority over others.

        1. Let’s hope the mayor doesn’t have another third change of heart.

        2. Here’s another law where the current people in charge have decided how and when they’re going to prosecute. I pray they don’t alter the deal further.

          In a joint release issued Monday from Meyer and Lewis County Sheriff-Elect Rob Snaza, Meyer said he will use the discretion of his office to overlook simple violations, but would still prosecute individuals attempting to supply guns to those not legally allowed to possess them.


  14. Great so we will borow a few billion more from China for all 900,000 law enforment personel to have body camaras.

    I would follow the money and see what companies are giving to the Democrats for this boondoggle.

  15. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

  16. Why do the Marshalls need rules to operate with locals wearing cameras? This doesn’t seem to be anything more than excuse. That’s not a ground breaking revelation, but it should be explicitly said that there reason doesn’t make sense.

    1. The Marshals are a federal agency. They need rules for doing everything. Otherwise they might be forced to use their own judgement.

      1. Talk about a “damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t” situation. I’m not quite sure we can trust the judgment of anyone in that equation.

        1. And, of course, the “damned” are the rest of us.

  17. I view this as neither funny nor sad, but rather as a wonderful opportunity. Jurisdictions which require cops to wear body cameras (which should be all of them) should simply refuse to permit their personnel to participate in these task forces without those cameras. Best case, it would drastically cut down on the number of such task forces (many of which have to do with the drug war), since the feds don’t have sufficient manpower to do them all alone. Worst case, it will force the Justice Department to implement rules requiring Federal Marshalls (and other federal law enforcement officials) to wear body cameras, at least when they’re participating in these joint operations. Either way, it’s a win for the people.

    1. As to “the people” winning, care to bet?

  18. Good old DOJ, there they go,again.

  19. lol, as long as the cops can turn them on and off as needed, it doesnt matter. Its a big joke.


  20. Mr. Driscoll said at the meeting that because the Justice Department hadn’t given his agency rules on body cameras, the Marshals couldn’t allow local police with recording equipment to work alongside them on task forces, the people who attended the meeting said. That’s because when local officers join task forces, they must follow federal rules of operation, and for now that means no body cameras.

    If there are no federal rules about body cameras, then the local officers wearing body cameras could not possibly be in violation of federal rules of operation. Am I missing something?

  21. In fairness, the DOJ under Obama has yet to decide for themselves what is legal and what is illegal under the newly adopted SJW rules. So give them a break.

    1. Rules are problematic.

  22. There’s an easy solution for this – tell the Federal Marshals that they can either allow the local police to follow their department rules on using bodycams or they go do their job solo – without local assistance.

    Its not the local cops who need the FM’s, its the FM’s who need the locals for the manpower.

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