The Bureau of Land Management has signed a $2.5 million contract that will ensure all of its roughly 250 uniformed law enforcement rangers are outfitted with body-worn cameras, the agency said in a news release this week.
The five-year contract with Axon Enterprise of Scottsdale, Arizona, also will provide rangers and nearly 100 special agents “with access to a cutting-edge, cloud-based digital evidence management platform,” the agency said in its release.
Many BLM law enforcement officers have used body-worn cameras since 2012, but the new contract means all of them will use the device, the BLM says.
“The Bureau has a responsibility to ensure tools like body worn cameras are fully deployed and in use bureau-wide to protect the safety and rights of our officers, employees, and the public and to assure enhanced transparency and legitimacy,” William Perry Pendley, BLM’s deputy director for policy and programs, said in the release. “We are delighted a western company can provide the important services and equipment we need and are pleased to work with a company certified and compliant with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.”
Axon says on its website that its Axon Body 2 camera has been deployed by more major cities than any other police body camera. The Grand Junction Police Department officers began using the camera a few years ago.
BLM law enforcement officers are responsible for protecting agency employees, visitors to BLM land and the natural resources on those 245 million acres of land, the agency says.
Twelve BLM rangers work in Colorado, roughly one for each BLM field office in the state, agency spokesman Jayson Barangan said.
This year, Colorado’s state Legislature approved, and Gov. Jared Polis signed, a police accountability bill that among other things requires that by July 1, 2023, local law enforcement agencies and the Colorado State Patrol issue body-worn cameras to all officers who interact with the public.
The bill was passed in reaction to incidents including George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands of police.
Body-worn cameras can both help reveal abuses by police and show when they acted properly. In 2018, two BLM rangers were wearing body cameras when they shot and killed Eugene Baylis in the desert near 27 1/4 Road north of Grand Junction after he fired a gun at them, striking one of them in his ballistic vest. Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein relied in part on footage from the cameras in determining the rangers’ shooting of Baylis was justified and no criminal charges against them were warranted.
The BLM said in its release, “The new cameras that will be deployed to BLM personnel incorporate real-time situational awareness technology with live streaming capabilities to allow authorized users to view critical incidents happening in the field in real-time.”
Digital evidence gathered by the cameras will be stored on a digital platform, the BLM said.
The new system is to be deployed in phases, with BLM-wide use of the cameras by officers expected by early this summer.
“This will provide our dedicated law enforcement rangers and special agents with the technology and tools they need to accomplish our protection and investigative missions and I look forward to seeing its full implementation in the coming months,” Eric A. Kriley, BLM director for law enforcement and security, said in the release.