Last year, police-worn body cameras were thrust into the national spotlight, sparked by the death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. President Obama weighed in, asking Congress to dedicate $75 million that, if allocated, could help states and localities purchase roughly 50,000 of these devices.
"I don't believe there's a chief in the country who's not thinking about this, including the chief of the Capitol Police," said Terrance Gainer, who has done stints as Capitol Police chief and Senate sergeant at arms.
Outside the Capitol Hill bubble, it has been a prominent topic of discussion. In October, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department launched an about six-month pilot program where 165 police officers began mounting the cameras to their shirt, collar, or an eyeglass frame. At the end of the shifts, it can take up to several hours for officers to download the audio and video footage to a server, according to Delroy Burton, the D.C. police union chairman. But that has really been the only wrinkle in the program that Burton called a "plus for the police officer and plus for the citizen."
But the Metropolitan Police Department's duties differ from those of the Capitol Police.
"The Capitol Police doesn't interact with the public the same way we do," Burton said. Their day-to-day duties don't involve responding to households for domestic disputes, alleged assaults, and the wide range of 911 calls emergency dispatchers receive.
The emergence of body cameras has already had an impact on policing, and it's one that's sure to increase, according to a 2014 report titled Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit police research and policy organization. It's crucial, the report suggests, for police agencies to consider what adopting these devices means for police-community relationships, privacy, trust, and more.
This isn't an easy decision for any police force—and the Capitol Police would be no exception. The cameras have the potential to capture moments among the country's top lawmakers and videotape areas of the Capitol that members of the public and even the press are not allowed to capture on film.
That makes the choice to use—or not to use—body cameras a unique decision for the department. And Gainer said he has complete trust in Chief Kim Dine to make decisions that are right for the department.
The same goes for the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Capitol Police.
"I would be open to a recommendation from the chief if they thought that was something that was worthwhile," Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, said, "but I'd leave it up to them to make a recommendation."
The House Appropriations Committee, which would have to provide money for the department to acquire cameras or at least study the issue, "does not speculate or comment on funding or policy items that may or may not be included in future bills," committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing wrote in an email.