Concerns about racial disparity in police actions have prompted a large number of responses from governmental, advocacy, and police groups. Various reports have documented such disparities in the patterns of traffic stops, stop and frisk searches, arrests, officer-involved shootings, and deaths in custody. Efforts to understand and respond to the apparent disparities in how minority citizens are treated by the police have taken many forms. Motivated in part by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, body-worn cameras (BWCs) have assumed a primary role in efforts to build bridges between the police and the community. Funding made available by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in 2015 to 73 law enforcement agencies (with additional funds made available in 2016) to support the purchase and implementation of body-worn cameras has hastened the spread of this technology. The use of BWCs has been supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Toolkit, developed by Dr. Charles M. Katz and Dr. Michael D. White, as well as a larger set of resources available at the BJA website. In addition, there is a weekly BWC newsletter that is part of a broader Training and Technical Assistance effort on the part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
An explicit focus on the growing use of BWC by law enforcement is to increase transparency and thereby enhance police accountability to the public. One salient aspect of such an approach is the desire to reduce disparities in the treatment of citizens by the police. Implicit in this approach is the idea that most police–citizen encounters do not reflect bias.