The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) launched the Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Policy and Implementation Program (PIP) in FY 2015 to assist law enforcement agencies in enhancing or implementing BWC programs. PIP’s primary goals are to improve public safety, reduce crime, and improve trust between police and the citizens they serve.
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Two challenging aspects of implementing or expanding a body-worn camera (BWC) program are ensuring projecting staffing is sufficient to support the program as well as anticipating the impacts on existing staff. Several variables make staffing challenging—some of which an agency can control while others are imposed. Ideally, agencies could simply use a staffing formula based on deployed BWC units, but the complexity of BWC issues makes that impractical.
Many people know Wichita, Kansas, as the “air capital of the world,” or as the birthplace of both White Castle and Pizza Hut. Wyatt Earp also worked as a Wichita police officer long before the famed 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. More recently, we recognize Wichita as an early adopter and innovator of police body-worn cameras (BWCs).
Body-worn cameras can’t replace an officer’s perceptions, but they can be extraordinarily valuable when they confirm the presence of weapons, capture resistance, and verify de-escalation attempts. What’s more, it is expected that the presence of cameras encourages people on both sides of the lens to be the best version of themselves as they interact.
Body-worn cameras and transparency: Experimental evidence of inconsistency in police executive decision-making
Body-worn cameras (BWC) have diffused rapidly throughout policing as a means of promoting transparency and accountability. Yet, whether to release BWC footage to the public remains largely up to the discretion of police executives, and we know little about how they interpret and respond to BWC footage – particularly footage involving critical incidents.
The Newton County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) is the primary law enforcement authority in Newton County, Georgia. Newton County began its body-worn camera (BWC) implementation in 2015 when it received its first BWC Policy and Implementation Program (PIP) grant; Newton County received a second BWC PIP grant in 2017 to expand its BWC program.
In-View Commentary for the Commonwealth of Virginia Public Defenders: Effects of Police BWCs on Public Defenders
As the number of law enforcement agencies equipping officers with BWCs increases, so too has the amount of BWC research (Gaub & White, 2020; Lum, Stoltz, Koper, Scherer, & Scherer, 2019; White & Malm, 2020). However, these studies have almost exclusively focused on the effects of the technology on police behavior, policy, and practice. But BWCs have created a ripple effect throughout the criminal justice system, and the effects on other actors—especially in the courtroom—have been noticeably understudied.
In the past five years, body-worn cameras (BWCs) have disseminated widely and rapidly to police departments across the United States (White & Malm, 2020). In 2013, only one-third of agencies had some form of BWC program, most of which were small-scale pilot programs of the relatively new technology (Reaves, 2015). By 2016, about half of agencies had BWCs, including nearly 80% of large agencies (more than 500 sworn personnel) (Hyland, 2018). The push for BWCs came at a time when there was a severe dearth of research from which to draw guidance or best practices.