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Capitol Police chief details body-worn camera pilot program

Some cruisers will get dash cams that record when emergency lights are activated

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger testifies during a House hearing last May.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger testifies during a House hearing last May. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police’s pilot program for body-worn cameras for officers will also include dash cams for cruisers, according to a letter from Chief J. Thomas Manger on Friday obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Manger, in the letter to the department, explained how the body-worn camera pilot program will work ahead of the March 18 start date. In addition to the 70 officers who volunteered to wear the cameras, 11 Capitol Police vehicles will be outfitted with dashboard cameras.

“The cameras will record public interactions requiring a police response,” Manger said.

Officers will not wear the cameras inside buildings on the Capitol complex, and cameras are not to be used during interactions with members of Congress.

Funding for the program was included by lawmakers in the fiscal 2023 appropriations law, which made clear the need to prevent disclosure of sensitive law enforcement information on member protection and safeguard lawmakers’ constitutional rights under the Speech or Debate Clause.

A review after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol building recommended officers wear cameras to improve accountability and protect them from false accusations.

Most of the officers wearing cameras will be those who ride bicycles and officers in squad cars. The dash cams will automatically record when the patrol car’s emergency lights are activated.

Officers are supposed to manually turn on their body-worn cameras when they are “taking law enforcement action,” Manger wrote.

Manger, who oversaw the rollout of the body-worn camera program when he was chief of the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland, said most of those 1,300 officers thought the equipment showcased their work and shielded them from false narratives.

The footage under the Capitol Police’s pilot program will be treated the same as Capitol surveillance video. After the completion of the 180-day pilot program, Manger will send a recommendation regarding whether to make it permanent to congressional stakeholders.

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