The Impacts of Body‑Worn Cameras: An Examination of Police Specialty Unit Perceptions through Diffusion of Innovations
This study assesses the effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on rates of fatalities arising from police-citizen encounters. While existing experimental research has not examined this outcome because it is so rare, the staggered roll-out of BWCs across the nation’s law enforcement agencies provides an opportunity for quasi-experimental analysis.
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.
The cause(s) of reduced use of force and complaints following police body-worn camera (BWC) deployment remain unclear, though some argue that BWCs generate a civilizing effect on citizen behavior. This potential effect rests on four pre-conditions:
(1) BWC presence and citizen awareness;
(2) BWC activation;
(3) Escalated citizen behavior or the potential for escalation;
(4) Citizen mental capacity for BWC awareness.
The Miami-Dade, Florida, Police Department (MDPD) is the largest municipal police department in the Southeastern United States, with over 2,800 sworn officers and 1,500 civilian workers spread throughout eight district police stations.
The research on police body-worn cameras (BWCs) has rapidly expanded to evaluate the technology’s impact on a range of police outcomes. Far fewer studies have addressed the various effects on downstream criminal justice actors, and those that do have focused almost entirely on prosecutors. Thus, public defenders have remained on the periphery of the police BWC discussion, despite playing an important role as an end-user of the technology.