Body Cameras Another Bad Idea from Washington

Commissioner Kerlikowske announced a pilot project last week that could ultimately lead to a requirement that Border Patrol agents wear body cameras. We are opposed to this ill-conceived, politically motivated idea. Our concerns are numerous.

First, trust and respect matter. It was disturbing that the new Commissioner chose to unveil this news in front of an audience of activists who openly advocate against Border Patrol agents and criticize our every action. Not only has he chosen not to sit down with us to discuss this, he failed to mention this change in policy in an interview he did earlier that morning with NBPC Vice President Shawn Moran. This is hardly the best way to establish a respectful relationship with the men and women who protect our borders.

Secondly, show us the policy. We are very distressed that we have yet to see the specifics of the Commissioner’s camera plan. We are still waiting to hear how these videos will be stored, used, and under what circumstances agents will be required to wear the cameras. If used correctly by the agency, these videos will offer an independent account in use-of-force incidents and other types of incidents. They will show the restraint and professionalism of our agents as well as the dangers they endure. However, historically these videos have been proven inconclusive, misleading and confusing. These videos have also been used to discipline agents for minor administrative violations. In some cases, Border Patrol agents have been prosecuted even when video evidence showed no wrongdoing.

  • Video evidence exists of a shooting in Arizona.  It shows no evidence of a crime being committed by the Border Patrol agent, yet this case was prosecuted twice.
  • Two San Diego-based Border Patrol agents were indicted largely based on the story fabricated by a criminal who claimed he was assaulted by them in a Border Patrol holding cell.  The video again shows no crime committed by the agents, but was still prosecuted by an overzealous Assistant US Attorney.
  • In Arizona, an illegal alien was rescued by a Border Patrol agent.  Statements from the illegal alien back this up, however if you watched the video of this incident it appears that the Border Patrol agent is trying to drown the illegal alien.

Finally, let’s not squander limited resources. In these dangerous times, the camera idea is a wasteful use of resources, training time and focus. Consider these facts:

  • Each unit costs $350-$500
  • The practice of uploading these videos would take on average 30 minutes. This would result in department having to make a choice between massive overtime costs, or an unacceptable practice of leaving the border unsecure at the end of each shift while agents upload their videos.
  • The storage requirement would be astronomical and costly estimated to be over a terabyte of storage costing another $350 per Agent.

As the threats from ISIS grow we need the agency to secure our border with well-trained, fully equipped agents. But instead of investing in training, equipment and a pay system that rewards agents for their sacrifice, the commissioner plans to buy expensive equipment and software to satisfy those who openly advocate against Border Patrol agents.

We cannot ignore the fact that our border is porous, vulnerable and dangerous. Before we squander any further resources, we must always ask, “does this activity increase security on the border and the safety of our agents?” Sadly, body cameras do nothing to address the security of the border, and as a result endanger agents by pulling valuable resources away from the field. Commissioner Kerlikowske’s camera policy is a political gimmick at a time when we need practical solutions.

For these reasons we stand in opposition to body cameras and any other ill-conceived policy that pulls needed resources from the task of keeping our nation safe.