Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have been presented as a technological innovation to cultivate greater civility in police–citizen interactions. Attempts have been made to clarify the impact of BWCs upon various policing outcomes, but the effects of BWCs on assaults against police has received scant research attention. Existing studies have been limited to a handful of jurisdictions with limited generalizability to a broader range of police organizations.
Resources about Research on BWCs and Related Issues
Part I: The Role of Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) in Recent Public Protests in Larger Agencies: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions
Arizona State University (ASU), a BWC TTA project partner, conducted a survey asking BWC PIP sites about their experiences with the recent protests, the value that BWCs added, challenges and problems each agency experienced, and solutions their agency implemented to overcome those challenges and problems.
In January of 2020, the National Police Foundation (NPF), in partnership with Arnold Ventures, co-sponsored a one-day conference, “Police Body-Worn Cameras: What Have We Learned Over Ten Years of Deployment?” This forum explored what we have learned about body cameras—both through scientific research and law enforcement practice—in the years since their deployment, as well as considerations for future implementation.
Effects of police body‐worn cameras on citizen compliance and cooperation: Findings from a quasi‐randomized controlled trial
This study tests the effect of body‐worn cameras (BWCs) on stopped drivers’ perceptions of complying with police directives, obeying traffic laws, and cooperating with the police. A quasi‐randomized controlled trial was conducted with drivers stopped at routine traffic checkpoints. Drivers in the treatment group encountered police officers wearing BWCs, and drivers in the control group encountered police officers without BWCs. Surveys were administered after the stop.
Attitudinal Changes Toward Body-Worn Cameras: Perceptions of Cameras, Organizational Justice, and Procedural Justice Among Volunteer and Mandated Officers
Little is known about officer perceptions of body-worn cameras (BWCs), and whether perceptions change following implementation within their agencies. BWC deployment varies, with some agencies mandating officers to wear BWCs and others using volunteers. Researchers have yet to assess attitudinal differences between volunteers and mandated officers. This study addresses these gaps using data from an evaluation of BWCs in the Phoenix Police Department to examine officer perceptions of the utility of BWCs, perceptions of organizational justice, and support for using procedural justice.
The distribution of police use of force across patrol and specialty units: a case study in BWC impact
The objective of this study was to examine differences in use of force by police patrol and specialized units, and the impact of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on use of force in these groups. We used administrative data from the Tempe (AZ) Police Department collected during a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of BWCs. t tests of means and ARIMA models were constructed to analyze unit-level variation in use of force. We found that Tempe officers in specialized units use substantially more force than patrol officers.
Video technology has been an important public safety tool for decades. From the earliest closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems in correctional facilities to in-dash cameras in police vehicles, video technology has been used to deter criminal behavior, document encounters or behaviors of interest, and to investigate and solve crimes. The current iteration of video technology in public safety is body-worn cameras (BWC). The use of BWCs dates back to 2005 when small-scale tests were conducted in police departments in the United Kingdom (Goodall, 2007).
Over the past five years, the number of research studies on BWCs has exploded, from just five in 2014 to nearly 120 as of December 2019. The studies address numerous outcomes including use of force and citizen complaints, officer and citizen perceptions, court outcomes, and officer activity measures (e.g., arrests and self-initiated calls). Some utilize “gold standard” randomized controlled trials (RCTs), whereas others use less rigorous methods.
By 2016, approximately one-half of American police agencies had adopted body-worn cameras (BWCs). Though a growing body of research has examined the impact of BWCs on outcomes such as use of force, complaints, and perceptions of police, few have considered how and why some agencies adopted BWCs, while others have not. With guidance from the diffusion of innovations paradigm, the current study explores variation in BWC adoption by police agencies.
Open to Interpretation: Confronting the Challenges of Understanding the Current State of Body-Worn Camera Research
In only five years, both the implementation of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) and
the evidence base evaluating the technology has diffused at a breakneck pace. As the
number of studies has increased, so too has the uncertainty surrounding BWCs and
their impact on various outcomes. In this commentary, we bring together the differing
viewpoints on the five existing summaries of the BWC literature, highlight the key
sources of contention, and make recommendations for BWC scholars and consumers