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.
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have received increasing empirical attention as more police agencies rapidly deploy this new technology among officers. Recent research estimates that around half (47.4%) of all agencies and a large majority of those with 500 or more officers (79.6%) have established an operational BWC program (Hyland, 2018). BWCs can improve police operations by providing objective, recorded accounts of police-community interactions that can provide valuable evidence in investigations.
Many people know Wichita, Kansas, as the “air capital of the world,” or as the birthplace of both White Castle and Pizza Hut. Wyatt Earp also worked as a Wichita police officer long before the famed 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. More recently, we recognize Wichita as an early adopter and innovator of police body-worn cameras (BWCs).
Do the Effects of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Complaints Change Over Time? Results From a Panel Analysis in the Milwaukee Police Department.
Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) can help improve transparency, accountability, and policing behaviors. This study extends prior BWC research by using a panel analysis design with a measure of treatment duration to examine how the effects of BWCs change over time.
A randomized controlled trial of the impact of body-worn camera activation on the outcomes of individual incidents
Body-worn cameras can’t replace an officer’s perceptions, but they can be extraordinarily valuable when they confirm the presence of weapons, capture resistance, and verify de-escalation attempts. What’s more, it is expected that the presence of cameras encourages people on both sides of the lens to be the best version of themselves as they interact.
The research base on the impact of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) has grown rapidly, and, over time, the results have become increasingly mixed. This development poses two problems:
This Campbell systematic summarizes the evidence from 30 studies of the effects of BWCs on several officer and citizen behaviors.
The majority of studies are from the United States.
For a two page summary on the resource, click here.
Body-worn cameras and transparency: Experimental evidence of inconsistency in police executive decision-making
Body-worn cameras (BWC) have diffused rapidly throughout policing as a means of promoting transparency and accountability. Yet, whether to release BWC footage to the public remains largely up to the discretion of police executives, and we know little about how they interpret and respond to BWC footage – particularly footage involving critical incidents.
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.