Effectiveness of Police Body-Worn Cameras

A new study on the effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) by police officers in Washington D.C. “suggests that we should recalibrate our expectations of BWCs.” The study involved 2,224 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in seven districts, with each district being observed for 7 months. The researchers found no statistically significant effects on police use of force, civilian complaints, or judicial outcomes.

The findings from the study are in stark contrast to previous, smaller studies that have taken place in San Diego, California; Rialto, California; Orlando, Florida; and a study covering seven different departments in the US and UK. In those studies, there were dramatic reductions in police use of force and complaints, leading to a common belief that recorded police interactions result in behavioral changes in officers and civilians. As this newest study points out, however, MPD is made up of over 3,800 officers and is one of the largest police departments in America. It’s clear further studies will be needed to get an accurate view of how and when BWCs work, or don’t.

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