Norton, Beyer To Reintroduce Federal Body-Worn Camera Bill
If enacted, the Federal Police Camera and Accountability Act would require federal police officers to wear body cameras.
Numerous videos of the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 have appeared on TV news and social media. Some of those videos were shot by members of the press, while others were recorded by the rioters themselves. But none originated from body-worn cameras on U.S. Capitol Police officers.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) plan to reintroduce their Federal Police Camera and Accountability Act this legislative session. If enacted into law, the bill would require all uniformed federal police officers, including U.S. Capitol Police, to wear body cameras. In addition, dashboard cameras would have to be installed on all police vehicles. "There is an urgent need for this bill," Norton said, in a Jan. 13 release. "Capitol Police tried to stop last week's mob attack on the Capitol, but without body cameras, we have been forced to rely on social media streams, cameras in the Capitol and pubic reporting to learn what happened. The events at Lafayette Square last year, where U.S. Park Police and other federal police officers forcibly removed peaceful protestors so the President could hold a photo op, is another recent example of why our bill is needed. Body and dashboard cameras have long been used by local police and are appreciated by both officers and the public. There is no reason federal police officers should not also be using body and dashboard cameras."
In the District, officers in the Metropolitan Police Department are already required to wear body cameras and dashboard cameras are installed in their vehicles.
Last year, many jurisdictions around the country, such as Fairfax and Arlington counties in Northern Virginia, enacted body worn camera legislation following demand for greater police accountability in the aftermath of George Floyd's death at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
"Consider that following a violent invasion of the United States Capitol, one of the most sacred places in our country, investigators were using cell phone footage taken by the attackers to identify them. It is 2021 — federal officers should all be wearing body cameras, period," Beyer said, in the release. "Civil rights protests and demands for justice this summer brought attention to the need for better transparency by federal law enforcement, and we will continue to find new ways where this deficiency does harm until Congress fixes it. That was true in 2017 following the still-unexplained killing of Bijan Ghaisar, and it is true now." Norton and Beyer originally introduced the federal body-worn camera legislation in November 2017, after 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar was fatally shot by U.S. Park Police. Before he was shot in his car, Ghaisar had fled the District and was pursued by officers down George Washington Parkway. The only video footage of the shooting came from the Fairfax County Police Department, which had captured the incident on a dashboard camera.