EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – FBI agents in El Paso will be the first in Texas to use body cameras when they execute search warrants or set out to arrest someone.
The move is meant to ensure transparency during volatile situations in a world where everybody else has a cellphone camera or can use social media to challenge the official account of events.
“We believe it’s important to continue to build that trust with the community and ensure we are as transparent as we can,” said Jeffery R. Downey, special agent in charge of the El Paso Field Office of the FBI. “At the end of the day, things come up, people raise concerns. We are going to have the footage to show the community what exactly happened or didn’t happen during an incident.”
The cameras are part of a 2021 Department of Justice mandate for its agencies to begin equipping their field officers with body cameras. The El Paso office is only the sixth nationwide to adopt the program.
Contrary to the many local law enforcement agencies that require their officers to have cameras on any time they are on patrol, the FBI will have more stringent parameters.
“We will not use them when we are dealing with witnesses, with people providing us information,” Downey said. “The recording will start at the time of the operation through the conclusion of the operation until we deem that the scene is safe. At that point in time, the supervisor, the team leader will tell everyone to deactivate the cameras.”
The footage will become law enforcement evidence but, if it’s no longer part of an ongoing investigation, it can be requested by the public through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The cameras typically are mounted on the agent’s tactical vest. The FBI did not immediately provide information on the cost of the cameras and Downey declined to say how many cameras have been assigned by the DOJ to the El Paso office. “What I can tell you is that every time we are going to do a pre-planned operation, there will be enough cameras for all of our (participating) agents and task force officers,” he said.
FBI officials said El Paso agents have been training on how to wear them and how to use them for two weeks now. FBI field offices in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston will follow soon.
When asked by Border Report if the cameras could’ve been helpful in clearing up concerns raised by residents during a March 3 raid on a home on La Luz Avenue, both Downey and FBI public information officer Jeanette Harper said, “yes.”
The residents told news outlets the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in El Paso raided the wrong house. The FBI a day later said it had a court order to raid a residence in search of a wanted Chuco Tango gang member. He just didn’t happen to be there at the time.