ICE agents will now wear body cameras in these 5 cities

The agency's goal is to implement the body-worn camera policy nationwide, but budget shortcomings may prevent that.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer is shown.
Posted at 9:33 PM, Mar 13, 2024

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in five cities will start wearing body cameras in an effort to increase transparency with the public, the agency announced Wednesday.

As part of the policy's initial deployment, 1,600 cameras have been sent to officers in Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and in Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) working in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Buffalo, New York, according to ICE Director Patrick J. Lechleitner.

HSI officers are responsible for national security investigations and investigations of other transnational crimes like human trafficking, drug smuggling and financial crimes. ERO officers manage immigration enforcement, from identification to arrest and removal of noncitizens, ICE states. That means all aspects of officer-migrant enforcement interactions will be recorded from now on in those five cities.

"Public trust is dependent on transparency, and our ability to effectively conduct our mission is dependent on public trust," Lechleitner said. "The deployment of body-worn cameras to our officers and agents assists in building that public trust through transparency and accountability. It is an essential element in our public safety and national security mission."

The new policy is a result of President Joe Biden's Executive Order on Public Trust-Public Safety. Signed in 2022 on the second anniversary of George Floyd's death, the order required federal law enforcement agencies to review their policies on use of force and take proactive measures to prevent demographic-based profiling, and mandated that officers in public wear body cameras. 

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Then in May of last year, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the first department-wide policy requiring officers in its agencies to wear body cameras when interacting with the public. This forced ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Secret Service to develop a policy within 180 days.

Ahead of that announcement though, ICE had already begun a body-worn camera pilot program for HSI agents in Houston, New York City and Newark, New Jersey, in December 2021. Another was later established with ERO officers in Atlanta, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City.

Then in January, ICE updated its policy to outline when body-worn cameras would be used in its activities. Examples included executing pre-planned arrest warrants, search or seizure warrants and removal orders as well as in-person issuances of subpoenas, and when responding to disturbances at ICE facilities. ICE stated the cameras would not be used for the sole purpose of recording people engaged in activities protected by the First Amendment. 

But even though the policy established the requirements for all uses of body-worn cameras, their future standing in ICE policy is dependent on whether the agency can get more money from Congress. Until then, an agencywide implementation of the technology is at a standstill.