The Department of the Interior has never issued a finalized body camera policy, even though its bureaus have been using body cameras since at least 2016, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) says.
Additionally, three of the four bureaus that had body camera policies at the time of OIG’s previous 2018 report have not updated them to comply with the Department’s interim policy that was issued in late 2017. As a result, OIG has found that these bureaus continue to operate under policies that are not consistent with minimum standards established in the Department’s interim body camera policy.
For example, OIG found bureaus with body camera policies that lacked provisions for supervisory review of body camera recordings; prohibitions on manipulating or deleting body camera recordings; requirements for annual follow-up training; and identification of technology administrators and training managers.
Bureaus cited staff shortages, retirements, and the priorities of the previous administration as reasons for their lack of action.
The Department informed OIG in March 2020 that the body camera policy was “in the queue” to become permanent. However, OIG determined that the policy had never been routed through the necessary approval process used at the relevant time.
On May 25, 2022, the White House issued Executive Order No. 14074,9 requiring the heads of all Federal law enforcement agencies to ensure that their respective agencies issue body camera policies that meet or exceed requirements outlined in a U.S. Department of Justice memorandum dated June 7, 2021. The executive order also requires that these body camera policies be made public and include protocols for expedited public release of body camera footage following incidents involving serious bodily injury or deaths in custody. Office of Law Enforcement and Security officials told OIG that the office and bureaus are working to ensure compliance with the executive order.
OIG has made two recommendations to help the Department and bureaus improve oversight and management of body camera programs. First, that it develop reasonable milestones to finalize and implement its body camera policy. The Department concurred and provided a target implementation date of October 14, 2022. Second, independent of a finalized Department policy, OIG wants the Department to ensure that bureaus using body cameras update and finalize their policies within a defined timeframe to comply with any applicable interim or final Department policy. The Department of the Interior agreed and stated that it will work with the bureaus’ law enforcement programs and the Office of the Solicitor to ensure that bureau policy is implemented by December 31, 2022.