BWCs and Drug and Alcohol Cases

Implicate or Exonerate? The Impact of Police Body-Worn Cameras on the Adjudication of Drug and Alcohol Cases


Oxford University Press (2019)


Michael D. White, Janne E. Gaub, Aili Malm, and Kathleen E. Padilla

Drug and alcohol offenses represent a significant portion of police work. Officers commonly rely on subjective indicators of intoxication, and prosecutors depend on officer evidence collection, written reports, and testimony at trial. Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) have diffused widely in policing partly due to their perceived evidentiary value, but the extent to which BWCs affect the adjudication of such offences remains unanswered. The current study explores this question with 7,000 misdemeanour cases from Tempe (Arizona), filed from 2014 to 2017. The Tempe Police Department deployed BWCs from November 2015 to May 2016. Results indicate that BWCs had no impact on guilty outcomes, but cameras were associated with significantly shorter time to adjudication. We discuss the important policy implications of these thought-provoking findings.

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