This research studies how prosecutors and public defenders (PDs) in three counties adapt to body-worn cameras (BWCs) in their everyday practice and the perceived value of BWC video as evidence in their cases. More specifically, the researchers consider prosecutorial and PD notions regarding the effect of BWC footage on jurors’ expectations and the effect of BWCs on juror decision making.
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.
Considering BWC Costs and Benefits
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) represent one of the most important advancements in policing over the past century, and they present formidable challenges on several fronts –community engagement, policy development and implementation, equipment selection and purchase costs, equipment maintenance and storage costs, privacy concerns, training, impacts and coordination across the justice system, program assessment, and more.