Body-Worn Cameras as a Potential Source of Depolicing: Testing for Camera-Induced Passivity
American Society of Criminology (2018)
Contentious debate is currently taking place regarding the extent to which public scrutiny of the police post-Ferguson has led to depolicing or to a decrease in proactive policework. Advocates of the “Ferguson effect” claim the decline in proactive policing increased violent crime and assaults on the police. Although police body-worn cameras (BWCs) are touted as a police reform that can generate numerous beneﬁts, they also represent a form of internal and public surveillance on the police. The surveillance aspect of BWCs suggests that BWCs may generate depolicing through camera-induced passivity. We test this question with data from a randomized controlled trial of BWCs in Spokane (WA) by assessing the impact of BWCs on four measures: ofﬁcer-initiated calls, arrests, response time, and time on scene. We employ hierarchical linear and cross-classiﬁed models to test for between- and within-group differences in outcomes before and after the randomized BWC rollout. Our results demonstrate no evidence of statistically signiﬁcant camera-induced passivity across any of the four outcomes. In fact,self-initiated calls increased for ofﬁcers assigned to treatment during the RCT. We discuss the theoretical and policy implications of the ﬁndings for the ongoing dialogue in policing.
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