The use of cameras has long been a key component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to earn and keep the public’s trust and confidence in the critical work we do, while enforcing the laws we are sworn to uphold. CBP undertook a yearlong, in-depth study to explore the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs) in our varied operating environments. The study concluded that these and other types of cameras could have positive benefits for CBP if acquired, deployed, and managed properly. This report concludes the feasibility study and communicates the next steps for CBP.
I would like to thank the members of the CBP Body-Worn Camera Working Group (“Working Group”) and those who volunteered to test the technology in their day-to-day operations. During my interactions with those who tested the cameras, I heard about the potential benefits they may have for CBP. Their findings allowed CBP to chart a path forward for camera technology and our overall efforts to increase transparency to the public. I also appreciate the expertise provided in the 2014 Police Executive Research Forum report, Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program, and the resources made available by the U.S. Department of Justice and non-governmental organizations.
Many state and local agencies utilize cameras and observe positive benefits. However, we know that the operating environments and needs of CBP can be quite different. CBP works in harsh physical environments, in some locations with limited internet connectivity, and experiences differences in the nature of law enforcement encounters. Additionally, varied assignments, uniforms, equipment and environmental elements can impact the functionality of technology. While the study found the particular BWCs evaluated were not well-suited for all CBP environments, overall camera technology does present benefits for CBP’s mission.
This is an area of constantly evolving technology and we are committed to testing durable new cameras that may be a better fit with CBP’s operational requirements. CBP must also develop policies, conduct further technical evaluations, and resolve other issues, such as funding and collective bargaining considerations.
I am directing an expanded camera review, including the integration of BWC testing into law enforcement operations such as checkpoints, vessel boarding and interdictions, training environments, and outbound operations at ports of entry as well as mobile camera options in vehicles. We will approach this effort thoughtfully and I welcome the opportunity to share our progress with the entire workforce and the public as we move forward.
R. Gil Kerlikowske