LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A new policy requiring law enforcement officers with the Bureau of Land Management to deploy body-worn cameras could have wide implications in Nevada, where 67% of land in the state is under BLM control.
An announcement Monday in Washington, D.C., indicates thousands of Interior Department law enforcement officers will fall under the new rules, including BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Indian officers. The federal government has lagged years behind local police departments in use of body-worn cameras.
A long history of conflicts involving the BLM includes the armed standoff with the Bundy family in 2014. The conflict surrounded non-payment of grazing fees on BLM land, and intrusion onto Lake Mead National Recreation Area lands. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which played a big role in the Bundy conflict, started using body-worn cameras in 2015.
Some agencies within the Interior Department have already started to use body-worn cameras, but the extent of participation by officers in Nevada isn’t clear. While much of the BLM-controlled land in Nevada is in remote areas of the state, there’s plenty that is just over a fence from Las Vegas neighborhoods or open lands along highways.
The Las Vegas BLM office deferred a request for comment to staff at the Interior Department.
The Interior Department has about 3,100 permanent law enforcement officers nationwide.
The changes follow incidents involving the U.S. Park Police in Washington D.C. An inspector general’s report criticized officers who used smoke grenades and pepper balls to clear racial justice protesters from an area in front of the White House in 2020. The agency also faced scrutiny over its lack of cameras after two U.S. Park Police officers fatally shot an unarmed motorist in northern Virginia in November 2017.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland launched a task force last year aimed at further building trust between law enforcement and the public. It also follows an executive order from President Joe Biden that focused on federal law enforcement agencies and required them to review and revise policies on use of force.
Part of today’s initiative includes ensuring that body-worn camera video is released to the public in a timely manner.
Under the policy, officers or agents are required to activate the body-worn cameras “at the earliest possible opportunity of an interaction and should capture as much of the event as possible, starting with the decision to engage an individual or vehicle.” The camera should remain running until the event is over, the policy states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.