This page features commentary from BWC experts, including researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

Current Commentary

The Impact of Body-Worn Cameras on the Burden of Proof 

Thomas Woodmansee, Senior Advisor, CNA, and former police officer

A Police Perspective

Perhaps no other new technology in American policing history has created such high expectations of establishing police credibility and accountability as have body-worn cameras (BWCs).  But what impact will such expectations have on investigations and trials? In discussions I have had with law enforcement officers around the country, I have learned that most officers understand and appreciate the public’s need for transparency but are also concerned that BWC footage, or lack thereof, will become the predominant factor in validating or invalidating their decisions and actions. 

Unlike DNA, which leaves little room for interpretation—other than by scientists, who cite statistical probabilities—body-worn camera footage is just a snapshot of an event and captures only a portion of what has occurred. It does not capture all the nuances or experiences of a scene or event, such as the officer’s knowledge of a place or person; emotional factors, including the danger of a call; or environmental influences, such as sounds or sights beyond the range of the lens.

Read the full commentary here.

 

Previous Commentaries

Title Author Preview
In View: Commentary from Body Worn Camera Experts

Mai Fernandez, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime

Although body-worn cameras (BWCs) can increase police accountability, they also can encroach on victim privacy and interfere with confidential communications. BWCs record sensitive information, the public release of which could be emotionally devastating and/or dangerous to a victim. The goal of every police department is to develop BWC policies and procedures that protect a victim’s right to...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Harold Medlock, Chief (ret.) Fayetteville, NC and BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert

In summer 2015, my department received a complaint from a citizen that she had been sexually assaulted by one of my officers while the officer cited her for larceny. The complainant would not come to police headquarters, but instead provided her account by phone. The Internal Affairs Commander began an investigation and, two hours later, I learned that the officer was one of three in our...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Wayne A Alsup, Research & Planning, San Antonio Police Department

Police cruisers across America; showcase such popular catch phrases as, “To Protect and To Serve” or, “Serving Our Community”.  Perhaps replacing these phrases with a more tangible creed would be appropriate, such as, “Transparency, Accountability, and Officer Compliance.”  With departments racing to outfit their officers with body worn camera’s (BWCs), there are not only concerns about...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Seth Stoughton, Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law

Following the intense public scrutiny of law enforcement since the summer of 2014, community members, politicians, and police executives alike have called for the adoption of body-worn camera (BWC) systems.  There have been a variety of reasons offered in support of body-worn cameras, all of which coalesce around advancing three potential benefits: a signaling benefit, a behavioral change...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Dr. Michael White, Co-Director and Subject Matter Expert on the BWC TTA Team, Professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University 

The recent review of the evidence supporting Pillar 3 Recommendations in the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing raises several important issues related to police body-worn cameras (BWCs). The first issue involves the small but rapidly growing body of research on police. When the President’s Task Force final report was released in May 2015, there were...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Laura McElroy, Technical advisor for U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs & BWC TTA SME

A recent survey shows almost all large police agencies in the United States are either using body-worn cameras (BWCs) or in the process of implementing the technology).i Many of these agencies give similar explanations for why they have chosen to embrace this new law enforcement tool—“… to gather evidence, increase transparency, and bolster public confidence,” according to...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Dr. Barak Ariel, Jerry Lee Fellow in Experimental Criminology and Lecturer in Experimental Criminology, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

A recent study published by the University of Cambridge, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, RAND, and several active-duty police officers in the journal...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Dr. Scott H. Decker, Foundation Professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University & BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert. 

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...

In View: Commentary from BWC Experts

Michael D. White, Ph.D., Arizona State University & BWC TTA Co-Director

This week the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn released a scorecard that evaluates the civil rights safeguards of police body-worn camera (BWC) programs in 50 U.S. cities. The Leadership Conference scorecard rates BWC policy on 8 criteria that are directly related to citizen rights and citizen privacy. We read their report with interest, as several of the agencies in...

In View: Commentary on Risk Management

Dan Zehnder, Lieutenant for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department & BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are rapidly being deployed in police departments around the country. These deployments come with a host of expectations, as well as challenges. Departments shouldn’t overlook, or underestimate, the simple premise that the day the first BWCs are deployed they begin to document department operations, policy, practices, and training in a detailed manner not previously...

In View: Commentary on Outcomes

Michael D. White, Ph.D., Arizona State University, BWC TTA Co-Director

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....