Resources about Research on BWCs and Related Issues

BWC 101: What We Know vs. What We Need to Know

This article provides the most comprehensive narrative review to date of the research evidence base for body-worn cameras (BWCs). Seventy empirical studies of BWCs were examined covering the impact of cameras on officer behavior, officer perceptions, citizen behavior, citizen perceptions, police investigations, and police organizations. Although officers and citizens are generally supportive of BWC use, BWCs have not had statistically significant or consistent effects on most measures of officer and citizen behavior or citizens’ views of police.

BWCs and Community Perceptions

The Milwaukee Police Department’s body-worn camera (BWC) program began in October 2015 as a response to strained police relations in the city’s communities of color that were exacerbated by several highly public police shootings of black men in Milwaukee and across the country. The Urban Institute surveyed Milwaukee community members in April 2016, September 2017, and July 2018 about their attitudes toward the police department and its BWC program, as part of a rigorous, independent evaluation.

In View Commentary: Practices from the Field

The Hogansville, GA, Police Department first implemented body-worn cameras in the middle of 2008 when former Chief of Police Moses Ector purchased two body cameras for a trail run at an International Chiefs of Police Conference. When we first deployed the cameras, there were two that were shared by the shifts. The cameras were not able to keep up with the charging requirements to remain functional so they were briefly decommissioned and spent a few months shelved. Chief Ector reissued one camera to me full time as a test subject to gauge the effectiveness of the BWC.

BWCs and Citizen Outcomes

The purpose of this paper is to review the extant of the published literature on body-worn cameras (BWCs) in policing, specifically in the context of how BWCs affect both citizens and officers.The current study is a narrative review of the impact of BWCs on police and citizens generated through a search of four repositories (Google Scholar, Criminal Justice Abstracts, EBSCO Host, PsychInfo). The current narrative review identified 21 articles that matched the selection criteria.

BWCs and Citizen Perceptions

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have become a central topic of policing reforms within the past few years. In the wake of recent high-profile use-of-force cases, many police departments accelerated their plans to implement BWCs. Conservative estimates suggest up to one-third of police departments in the U.S. are using BWCs, with that count increasing rapidly. The rapid adoption of BWCs has outpaced research into the impact that this technology has had on policing. Most studies of BWCs to date focus on two main outcomes, namely officer use of force and citizen complaints against officers.

Community Perceptions of Police Body- Worn Cameras

Despite relatively little extant research, efforts to expand the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs) in policing are increasing. Although recent research suggests positive impacts of BWCs on reducing police use-of-force and citizen complaints, little is known about community members’ perceptions of BWCs. The current study examined perceptions of residents of two Florida counties and found a large majority of respondents supported the use of BWCs. Structural equation modeling was utilized to examine factors that influence views of BWCs.

BWCs: The Effect on Police Activity and Citizen Encounters

Many have suggested that placing body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police officers improves the civility of police-citizen encounters and enhances citizen perceptions of police transparency and legitimacy. In response, many police departments have adopted this technology to address public concerns over the quality of policing in their communities. The existing program evaluation evidence on the intended and unintended consequences of outfitting police officers with BWCs is still developing, however.