Two challenging aspects of implementing or expanding a body-worn camera (BWC) program are ensuring projecting staffing is sufficient to support the program as well as anticipating the impacts on existing staff. Several variables make staffing challenging—some of which an agency can control while others are imposed. Ideally, agencies could simply use a staffing formula based on deployed BWC units, but the complexity of BWC issues makes that impractical.
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).
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.
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.
Park City, Utah, is known for its beautiful alpine scenery, its magnificent skiing, and as host of the Sundance Film Festival, but it was also one of the first US jurisdictions to implement body worn cameras (BWCs). In 2013, the Park City Police Department (PCPD) decided BWCs might help its officers better serve their 8,000 full-time residents and the 100,000 tourists that descend on the city during peak season. They were right—after BWCs were deployed, uses of force dropped by 42 percent and complaints declined drastically. According to the city prosecutor, the courts also benefited.
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).
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
Examining the Empirical Realities of Proactive Policing Through Systematic Observations and Computer-Aided Dispatch Data
The 2017 National Academies of Sciences (NAS) Committee and Report on Proactive Policing highlighted what we know about the effects of proactive policing practices on crime prevention and police–community relations. However, the evaluation evidence reviewed by the NAS, which largely comes from case studies of carefully managed proactive initiatives, does not provide a basis for estimating how extensively these practices are used or whether they are used in the most effective ways.
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.
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have become a popular technology for use in police forces around the world; however, little is known about the effects of this technology on policing and on the criminal justice system more generally. In this article, we discuss reported benefits and limitations of body-worn cameras. We examine the current evidence-base for BWCs and the legislative framework in NSW.