The Benefits of BWCs

The Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras: New Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial at The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department




Anthony Braga, James R. Coldren, Jr., William Sousa, Denise Rodriguez, and Omer Alper

Many community stakeholders and criminal justice leaders have suggested placing body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police officers improves the civility of police-citizen encounters and enhances citizen perceptions of police transparency and legitimacy.  In response, many police departments have adopted this technology to improve the quality of policing in their communities. However, the existing evaluation evidence on the intended and unintended consequences of outfitting police officers with BWCs is still developing. This study reports the findings of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving more than 400 police officers in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). We find that BWC-wearing officers generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports relative to control officers without cameras. BWC-wearing officers also made more arrests and issued more citations than their non-BWC-wearing controls. In addition, our cost-benefit analysis revealed that savings from reduced complaints against officers, and the reduced time required to resolve such complaints, resulted in substantial cost savings for the police department. Considering that LVMPD had already introduced reforms regarding use of force through a Collaborative Reform Initiative prior to implementing body worn cameras, these findings suggest that body worn cameras can have compelling effects without increasing costs. 

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