Border Patrol Expands Body Cam Technology to Nearly Four Thousand Agents

By Elijah Labby Friday, October 9, 2020

Late last month, the US Department of Customs and Border Protection signed a landmark deal that would equip about 3,800 Border Patrol officers with body cameras.

The deal with weapons manufacturer Axon comes with a $13 million price tag and signals the first time the agency has provided body cameras to its agents.

“This effort will enhance transparency and accountability while strengthening the safety of our agents in the field,” the agency said in a statement.

The agreement with Axon, formerly known as TASER International, will see the company provide its Incident-Driven Video Recording System with cloud video backup to CBP, which will distribute the cameras in Spring 2021.

The agency began testing the technology in 2018 following a 2014 “body-worn camera feasibility study.”

“CBP law enforcement personnel are charged with protecting the American people against terrorism and violent transnational criminals, while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of individuals with whom they interact and ensuring the safety of their fellow law enforcement partners,” said Commissioner Kevin McAleenan at the time.

The company has experienced staggering success, growing from a valuation of around $500 million to over $5 billion since it went public in 2006.

Axon became a leader in the body camera industry after its 2018 acquisition of rival VIEVU. In 2019, Axon’s revenue grew to over $530 million. This revenue is expected to grow, as Marketwatch reports the law enforcement software market “is expected to reach a market value of [$]11 billion by 2023 growing with 8% CAGR during the forecast period 2018-2023.”

Axon, however, has experienced criticism in the past over the harmful use of its line of Taser electroshock weapons.

In 2007, a Florida court found that a police officer’s use of his Taser was "so plainly
unnecessary and disproportionate, no reasonable officer could have had a
mistaken understanding as to whether [the] particular amount of force [was] legal in the circumstances."

While Axon faced no criminal penalties in the case, in 2008 a California jury ordered Axon to pay $6.2 million in damages to the estate of Robert Heston, who died after going into cardiac arrest as a result of being shot multiple times with the device.

However, many see body cameras as a check on the use of illegal force in law enforcement. In 2018, the Motley Fool reported that 37 of the 69 major US cities have adopted body camera technology, and that complaints of officer conduct have dropped as much as 88%.

“Historically, there was no documentary evidence of most encounters between police officers and the public,” said Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union in a report. “...Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.”

Axon Federal Vice President and General Manager, Richard Coleman, said that such benefits are a source of excitement for the company.

"Axon is proud to partner with the world class law enforcement agency that is the US Border Patrol. We will increase agent safety and allow for more accountability with our new body camera program of record," he said. "We look forward to continuing our support of the Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection."

About the Author

Headshot of Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy websit

Related Articles