Resources about Research on BWCs and Related Issues

Key Trends in Body-Worn Camera Policies

The CNA Corporation, Arizona State University (ASU), and Justice and Security Strategies (JSS) provide training and technical assistance (TTA) to law enforcement agencies who have received funding for body-worn cameras (BWCs) through the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) BWC Policy and Implementation Program (PIP). Administrative policy review is a central feature of TTA. The TTA team developed a BWC policy review process to assess the comprehensiveness of BWC policies, which is assessed through a BWC Policy Review Scorecard.

In View: BWCs and Police Accountability

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.

BWCs and Socially Desirable Behavior

A voluminous body of research across various disciplines has shown that when humans become self-conscious about being watched, they often alter their conduct. Accumulated evidence further suggests that individuals who are aware that they being-observed often embrace submissive or commonly-accepted behavior, particularly when the observer is a rule-enforcing entity. What is less known, however, is what happens when the observer is not a “real person”, and whether being videotaped can have an effect on aggression and violence.

Efficacy of Police Body Cameras for Evidentiary Purposes

IACP logo
Source: IACP

Human eyes and camera lenses see, process, and recall information differently. It is important to understand the differences before using camera footage in use-of-force (UOF) or officer-involved shooting (OIS) investigations. The ramifications for not understanding the differences include inappropriate or unfair disciplinary actions, increased liability, and potential wrongful incarceration. Body cameras are the wave of the future in law enforcement and are already showing their many positive contributions. As with all new technologies, there will be growing pains and learning curves.

You can read this article online here

The Lessons of Albuquerque

ACLU logo
Source: ACLU

The Albuquerque department has been the subject of a Justice Department investigation in which body cameras were adopted in 2012 in the wake of controversy over police shootings, along with a requirement that officers use them to document civilian encounters.However, the cameras have hardly proven to be a solution to the department's problems. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico has been leading the way in pushing for reform of the Albuquerque police department, with its advocacy having for example played a key role in prompting the Justice Department's investigation. 

You can read this article online here.


Implementing a BWC Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned

Source: PERF

In an effort to address these questions and produce policy guidance to law enforcement agencies, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), conducted research in 2013 on the use of body-worn cameras. Drawing upon feedback from the conference, the survey results, and information gathered from the interviews and policy reviews, PERF created this publication to provide law enforcement agencies with guidance on the use of body-worn cameras.


Body Worn Cameras, Use of Force, and Officer Discretion

The multi-site randomized controlled trial reported that police body-worn cameras (BWCs) had, on average, no effect on recorded incidents of police use of force. In some sites, rates of use of force decreased and in others increased. It was found that BWCs can reduce police use of force when officers' use of discretion to turn cameras on and off is minimized. You can read this study here


In View:Use of Force Vs. Assaults Against Officers

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe, and their colleagues (Ariel et al. 2016a, 2016b) published two papers this week that explore this provocative question. The research designs employed are rigorous, the data are sound, and the results are intriguing. I applaud the researchers for making valuable contributions to the evidence base on body-worn cameras and their impact.