Impact of BWCs on Citizen Complaints: Directory of Outcomes

Impact of BWCs on Citizen Complaints: Directory of Outcomes




Dr. Michael D. White, Dr. Janne E. Gaub, and Kathleen E. Padilla



The research base on the impact of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) has grown rapidly, and over time, the results have become increasingly mixed. This development poses two problems: 

  1. It is difficult to keep track of the quickly growing evidence base 
  2. It is difficult to make sense of the sometimes competing findings across studies 

Moreover, studies can vary widely in terms of their methodological rigor. We have developed the Body-Worn Camera Outcome Directories to address these two problems. The Directories provide a comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the existing research by outcome (use of force, citizen complaints). Importantly, each study’s entry has been approved by the primary researcher to ensure accuracy (when the primary researcher could not be reached, an independent reviewer was tasked with peer-reviewing the interpretation of the study’s findings).  Each directory is presented in two formats: A summary version and a detailed version. Both versions contain, for each study, the agency being evaluated, the agency’s state or country, the researchers conducting the study (with a link to the study), the year in which the study was published, an assessment of the study’s methodological rigor using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale, and summaries of the study’s findings using visual indicators (green down-arrow, red up-arrow, or yellow dot). The detailed version of the directories also includes the percent change for between- and within-group comparisons and study sample size. More detailed instructions for interpreting the directories are included in each document. 

Currently, directories for  citizen complaints are available below, though additional outcomes are forthcoming.  If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Michael White (, Dr. Janne Gaub (, or the BWC TTA Team (

Summary of the Citizen Complaint BWC Outcome Directory (3/25/19)

The Citizen Complaint Directory provides information on 26 published studies or reports that examine the impact of BWCs on the prevalence of citizen complaints. Two notable findings emerge: 

  1. Twelve of the 26 studies are randomized controlled trials (RCTs), displayed as Level 5 on the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale (MSMS). Only five studies are below Level 3. This finding highlights the robust methodological rigor of the rapidly growing body of research on BWCs.
  2. Twenty of the 26 studies report substantial or statistically significant reductions in citizen complaints, following deployment of BWCs.

Taken together, the current body of research strongly demonstrates that police BWCs lead to reductions in citizen complaints against police.