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.
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.
Abstract: In this article, we provide the most comprehensive narrative review to date of the research evidence base for body-worn cameras (BWCs). Seventy empirical studies of BWCs were examined covering the impact of cameras on officer behavior, officer perceptions, citizen behavior, citizen perceptions, police investigations, and police organizations. Although officers and citizens are generally supportive of BWC use, BWCs have not had statistically significant or consistent effects on most measures of officer and citizen behavior or citizens’ views of police.
The value of body-worn camera (BWC) footage as evidence and the challenges and opportunities it affords case processing are, as yet, relatively unexplored. The current research examines the impact of BWC footage on prosecutors and defense attorneys in three jurisdictions: Monroe County, New York; San Diego County, California; and Travis County, Texas. We explore variations across the two groups (assistant district attorneys/public defenders) in terms of time, expectations, and anticipated consequences of BWC on their respective work in processing cases in local courts.
Abstract: Police departments use body-worn cameras (body cams) and dashboard cameras (dash cams) to monitor the activity of police officers in the field. Video from these cameras informs review of police conduct in disputed circumstances, often with the goal of determining an officer’s intent. Eight experiments (N = 2,119) reveal that body cam video of an incident results in lower observer judgments of intentionality than dash cam video of the same incident, an effect documented with both scripted videos and real police videos.
Abstract: This article explores variations in procedural justice delivered in face-to-face encounters with citizens before and after the implementation of body-worn cameras (BWCs). We draw on recent advances in the measurement of procedural justice using systematic social observation of police in field settings in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Executive Summary: Since 2014, many police agencies have adopted body-worn camera (BWC) programs, in many cases with little to no evidence-base to guide implementation and policy development. The research has expanded significantly since then, with well over 70 articles now published on the topic of BWCs (Lum, Stoltz, Koper, & Scherer, 2019). These studies have identified several benefits of the technology, including increased transparency and legitimacy, expedited resolution of complaints, and evidentiary value for arrest and prosecution.
Author(s) Abstract: Although body-worn cameras (BWCs) have diffused rapidly in law enforcement both in the United States and abroad, questions have emerged regarding the potential utility of BWCs for specialized police units. Given the near-sole focus on patrol during BWC implementation, the role of specialty units in BWC deployment is often overlooked. Further, the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges associated with BWCs may be unique for specialty units compared to patrol, given their differences in mission and operational focus.
ICMA released a fact sheet highlighting best practices for implementing body-worn cameras in local police departments, from the Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice. The development of the fact sheet was supported by a grant awarded by BJA and implemented by CNA and ICMA. For more resources developed by ICMA and BWC TTA, please visit the ICMA BWC project page.