Changes made within policing carry significant downstream implications for the rest of the criminal justice system and for surrounding communities. The relatively recent expansion in police body-worn camera (BWC) programs across U.S. police agencies represents one such change that will have a wide impact on stakeholders both inside and outside the system. We investigated perceptions of BWCs among stakeholders external to two police departments that recently deployed the new technology.
External stakeholders’ acceptance of a police innovation shapes how it spreads and impacts the larger criminal justice system. Therefore, a lack of support among external stakeholders for BWCs can short-circuit their intended benefits. Existing research studies have, however, focused on the implications of BWCs for police officers and the citizens with whom they come into direct contact. As such, there is little direction for agencies concerning the perceptions and concerns about BWCs from others who are affected by a department’s decision to implement a new program.
Upon learning that a local law enforcement agency was preparing to deploy body-worn cameras (BWCs), we as prosecutors had to wonder what this new evidence would mean to our presentation of cases in court. Would it mean more or less work? More or fewer trials? Better trial outcomes?
Given the national interest in equipping police with body-worn cameras (BWCs), it is important to consider public attitudes concerning the technology. This article draws on the results of a national survey of citizen opinions of BWCs. The survey includes items related to general support for BWCs, opinions on their potential
Questions have begun to emerge regarding the potential utility of BWCs for specialized units in a police department, such as K9, traffic, tactical, gang, and undercover units. Given the near-sole focus on patrol, the role of specialized units in BWC deployment is often overlooked. Further, the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges associated with BWCs may be very different for specialized units than for patrol.
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.