Graham: Why no body cameras for Capitol Police?

U.S. Capitol Police do not use body cameras but they monitor the issue around the nation, the department said Tuesday after Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report MORE (R-S.C.) vowed to explore the technology’s potential on Capitol Hill.

"Seems to me that if we were that concerned about it as members of Congress, we would look into that,” Graham said after asking a Judiciary Committee panel if Capitol Police used the technology. "So I intend to do that."

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where Graham spoke shined light on concerns about privacy rights and costs associated with handling the vast amount of police recordings that will become increasingly important as calls grow for the cameras around the nation, amid a series of controversial police shootings over the past year.


The hearing focused on the general use of police body cameras. But Graham said lawmakers should apply the debate to its own backyard — the Capitol Police.

"The U.S. Capitol Police do not use body cameras, though we closely keep abreast of the latest best practices & developments on this topic," police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider told The Hill.

Much of the hearing focused on lawmakers' and experts' views that police departments around the country will need clear rules about collecting and retaining data obtained through the increasing use of the cameras.

"I feel like we are in the infancy of this technology," said Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' Schumer: Allegations against Cuomo 'serious, very troubling' MORE (D-Minn.), who has taken a leading role on privacy issues.

"When does the officer turn it on, when does he turn it off?" he added. "I think all of us can sort of in our minds see '60 Minutes' stories about a miscarriage of justice because of editing of footage."

Some advocates at the hearing floated guidelines that would require the cameras to be on during all law enforcement work when an officer is on duty. There would be exceptions for victims or witnesses who do not want to be recorded.

Experts said storing all the recordings could cost as much as $100 per month per officer.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) questioned the "hackability" of the vast amount of data stored with local police.

"How easy would it be to hack into these and get some of that very, very personal footage?" he asked.

High-profile deaths involving police in Missouri, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and other cities have caused massive protests and advocacy for the increased use of body cameras to increase transparency and accountability.

The shooting death of North Carolina resident Walter Scott was caught on video by a bystander, which helped lead to the arrest of the officer.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottFloyd family attorney knocks qualified immunity for officers Why paid internships matter for foreign policy careers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote MORE (R-S.C.) requested the Tuesday hearing last month. Scott, one of only two black senators, has been a strong proponent of body-worn cameras. While not a member of the committee, he was invited to give testimony and ask questions.

He argued the federal government should not mandate cameras and that rules governing their use should be developed at the local and state level, though he said the federal government should continue to help with funding.

"Policing is a local effort," Scott said.

Graham said those grants should come with conditions attached.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced a $20 million pilot program to help purchase cameras for law enforcement offices around the country. The vast majority of that would come from grants so departments could buy the equipment. A small portion would be used for training and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Last December, the administration announced a $75 million effort over the next few years that would help buy 50,000 body cameras for police. It was announced as part of broader program to increase police training and outreach to increase trust between law enforcement and communities.