Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement

Police Current headlines have brought the discussion of body-worn camera programs to the forefront of our national dialogue. The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer is one such event that has propelled this heated discussion to President Obama’s desk. On December 1, 2014, President Obama announced that the federal government will spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement officials across the nation. The recent decision of a grand jury to not indict a police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner has also brought into question the use and effectiveness of body-worn cameras. A report by the Police Executive Research Forum provides additional information for those who have been following this national debate and seek supplementary knowledge on the topic. The report, Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned, addresses both the benefits and drawbacks of body-worn camera technology.

In the report, Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, reflects the sentiment that is currently making headlines across the United States, “… both the public and the police increasingly feel the need to videotape every interaction…” and this reality, “…can be seen both as a reflection of the times and as an unfortunate commentary on the state of police-community relationships in some jurisdictions.” For those protesting in Ferguson, New York City, and other cities nationwide, this report investigates the effect body-worn cameras may have on the, “…high-quality public service expected of police officers…” that protesting Americans demand.

The report is divided into the following three chapters, with subsections devoted to the various points of interest concerning the use of body-worn cameras:

  • Chapter 1: Perceived Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras
    • Accountability and transparency
    • Evidence documentation
  • Chapter 2: Considerations for Implementation
    • Privacy considerations
    • Impact on community relationships
    • Addressing officer concerns
    • Managing expectations
    • Financial considerations
  • Chapter 3: Body-Worn Camera Recommendations
    • General recommendations
    • Recording protocols
    • Download and storage policies
    • Recorded data access and review
    • Training policies
    • Policy and program evaluation

For additional information about body-worn cameras, make sure to check out the following reports available in the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL log-in may be required):

Can Body Worn Cameras Serve as a Deterrent to Police Misconduct? [August 28, 2014]

Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence

Self-Awareness to Being Watched and Socially-Desirable Behavior: A Field Experiment on the Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on Police Use-of-Force

Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition


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