In 2017, the Fairfax County (Virginia) Police Department, known as FCPD, decided to launch a pilot implementation of body-worn cameras (BWCs) to learn what the technology involved, the response of its officers to it, what community members and local organization leaders would think, and the changes in policing practices and outcomes that would occur. Some police agencies in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area had already adopted BWCs and there was a push nation-wide to implement them quickly in the face of numerous high-proﬁle and controversial interactions between police and citizens.
On August 28, 2019, the BWC TTA provider hosted a webinar on the evidentiary value of body-worn camera (BWC) footage. This webinar focused on the perspectives and experiences of Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) and Public Defenders (PDs) about the role BWC video footage plays in their respective work streams. This webinar also described several benefits and disadvantages of the use of BWCs in a court of law, focusing on the context of time, expectations, and anticipated consequences.
Drug and alcohol offences 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.
Objectives The current research adds to the literature addressing police body-worn cameras (BWCs) by experimentally evaluating their effect on an interaction that has, to date, received relatively little systematic, empirical attention: police–eyewitness interactions. Although research suggests that BWCs generally have positive effects, legal scholars and media professionals have long argued that deploying cameras in this context may backfire, especially by chilling public willingness to speak with police.
Spurred by support from a presidential commission (The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing ("Task Force"), 2015) and over 53 million dollars in funding from the U.S. Justice Department in 2015 and 2016 (Department of Justice, 2015, 2016), the use of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) by law enforcement agencies has grown rapidly in the U.S. as well as across the world (Cubitt, Lesic, Myers, & Corry, 2016). Evaluations of officer perceptions of BWCs and the impact of BWCs on officer behavior is also increasing rapidly.
The New Orleans, Louisiana, Police Department provided examples of its Stops, Searches, Arrests, Use of Force, and Procedural Justice Audit Form and Use of Force Reporting and Force Statements Audit Form to assist agencies interested in implementing similar audit and reporting practices.
To view the New Orleans Stops, Searches, Arrests, Use of Force, and Procedural Justice Audit Form, click here.
As police departments across the United States embrace the use of police body-worn cameras (“BWCs”), it is imperative that prosecutors be involved in the uptake process as early as possible. The cameras will inevitably capture a great deal of evidentiary material that will be used in every type of criminal prosecution. Thus, systems and policies must be developed to ensure that this evidence is properly captured and delivered to the prosecutor in a timely and usable way.