Federal policing legislation could require more oversight for DHS agents, too

Federal policing legislation could require more oversight for DHS agents, too

Passed by the House in June, bill now awaits a vote in the Senate

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

The Justice in Policing Act, meant to help address oversight issues in local policing nationwide, could also help provide some needed accountability for federal law enforcement in situations like those currently in Portland, Chicago, and other major cities where, much to the displeasure of the current administration, protests against police violence are a daily occurrence.

Introduced after the murder of George Floyd, the legislation challenges the use of qualified immunity and sets new standards for data collection on police violence. This would include expanding the use of body cameras on federal law enforcement agents to provide more insight into their interactions with civilians.

According to the legislation, federal agents would need to be equipped with body cameras, and these would need to be turned on whenever there is a call for service or an investigatory-type stop.

The body camera footage would need to be retained for at least six months and would only be accessible to those immediately involved in the incident at that time.

In situations where a violation is alleged to have occurred during a particular interaction, footage would need to be retained for up to 3 years, and requests for such information by members of the media will need to be expedited and provided in five days.

The body cameras could not be equipped with facial recognition technology.

In Portland, footage recently captured on a bystander’s phone of federal agents showed a protester being led to a seemingly-normal minivan and then driven away, apparently without receiving any identification from the federal actors involved. Others have said that they were also abducted by federal officers and driven to undisclosed locations before ultimately being released. On Friday, a federal judge rejected the Oregon Attorney General’s attempt to limit the presence of federal agents in the city.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28 about the use of federal agents in Portland, which he defended as being necessary against the forces of Antifa and “violent rioters.”

With 230 Democratic sponsors in the House, the bill passed that body easily at the end of June, and it now awaits additional considerations from the Republican-held Senate.

The whole Act, which also includes additional funding for local police body cameras, is embedded below.