Wearable Tech World Feature Article
September 18, 2014

US Customs and Border Protection Now Testing Body Cameras

The wearable space has been experiencing explosive growth, from Samsung and Apple’s battle over who has the best “accessories” to Intel and Fossil creating fashion-forward wearable technology. And now, wearable tech is making its way into law enforcement.  It’s known that all police cars have cameras in them to protect the municipality as well as its citizens, but what about border patrol?

It seems a regular topic in the news is immigration, or more specifically people trying to enter the United States illegally. Amid questions of Customs and Border Protection abusing the use of deadly force, it was announced today that agents will begin testing wearable cameras at the training academy.

This morning at a news conference, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, R. Gil Kerlikowske stated we are seeing “developments toward CBP's commitment to increase transparency and accountability.”

As this issue becomes more and more transparent, Customs and Border Patrol has an opportunity to offer new accountability for its alleged actions. The Agency’s announcement came in a meeting behind closed doors with those critical of the agency’s tactics and practices.  USA Today reports that since 2004, agents have killed at least 46 people.  Of those people, 15 were American citizens.   

Cameras offer complete visibility in the daily activity of agents. As we’ve seen with the police, this level of transparency cuts both ways—protecting an innocent officer or uncovering abusive ways. The unintended consequences could include the loss of confidential informants. One is no longer anonymous if they are captured on video.

As law enforcement moves into the 21st century, it is clearly taking strides to better protect and serve.  In particular, after years of promises Customs and Border Protection can begin to defend its actions through video. The agency’s detractors claim the move as damage control.

With concerns about this attempt to quell public mistrust in the government agency, spokesperson for the agents’ union Shawn Moran commented, "We want to make sure these are used to back up agents, not to persecute them…If they're used correctly by the agency, they will offer an independent account in use-of-force incidents or any type of incident. We do have concerns management would use them to look for administrative violations."

Whichever side of the fence one stands on, this step is step toward transparency and greater trust in authority.  From Rodney King to the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., to protecting the United States border, citizens are typically kept in the dark. It can’t hurt to shed a little light on a rather murky situation.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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