Partnering with Researchers to Evaluate BWCs: Miami-Dade, Florida, Police Department
The Miami-Dade, Florida, Police Department (MDPD) is the largest municipal police department in the Southeastern United States, with over 2,800 sworn officers and 1,500 civilian workers spread throughout eight district police stations. The MDPD serves a population of over 2.7 million residents and covers more than 2,1391 square miles across 34 municipalities and unincorporated areas. The MDPD received an award through the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program (BWCPIP) in 2015, which provided $1.2 million to purchase and implement approximately 1,000 BWCs. The MDPD trained 962 officers and provided them with BWCs during a four-month period in 2016. By June 2018, the MDPD had issued BWCs to 1,869 officers throughout the County, including 991 officers in the seven police districts that do not include the airport.
The MDPD partnered with researchers at Florida International University (FIU) to assess the impact of BWCs on law enforcement, crime, prosecution, civil litigation, and proactive traffic enforcement. Researchers compared the “pre-BWC” time interval (January 2005 to April 2016 - 136 months) to the “post-BWC” time interval (May 2016 to June 2018 - 26 months). Most of the outcome data were available for the entire pre- and post-BWC time intervals, and an interrupted time series model was used to evaluate the impact of BWCs on outcomes.
Analyses of “law enforcement” measures found two measures for which there were statistically significant reductions after BWCs were implemented: complaints filed against MDPD officers (measured by “contact reports”) and officer use of force (self-reported by officers in Supervisor Response to Resistance Reports), which decreased by 34% and 19% respectfully. Other “law enforcement’ measures decreased although not in statistically significant numbers: internal affairs cases against police officers, excessive force (as measured by “unauthorized force cases”) and officer safety (as measured by officer injuries).
Mean Monthly Change Pre / Post BWC
Complaints against officers
(19.3 v 12.7)
Officer use of force
(25.7 v 20.7)
Internal affairs investigations
(9.6 v 7)
Unauthorized use of force cases
(3.5 v 2.4)
(7.5 v 5.4)
While the monthly mean number of reported UCR Part I crimes and felony arrests decreased by 6.6% and 10.8% respectively, the decreases were not statistically significant. Similarly, the monthly mean decreases in the number of charges filed, guilty pleas, and guilty verdicts were not significant. Therefore, the BWC program as studied here did not reveal a significant impact on reported crime or prosecution outcomes.
Civil litigation (as measured by mean monthly civil cases filed against officer use of force) decreased significantly, by 74% after the implementation of BWCs. The average amount paid for claims also decreased by about 30%, although the change was based on a small number of cases and not significant according to statistical analyses.
The many benefits of BWCs are well documented, but there is unconfirmed concern that they may result in less proactive policing or “de-policing” because of officer fear of negative repercussions of what may be captured by BWCs. Researchers found that the average number of monthly traffic stops decreased after BWC implementation and accident increased, the changes in both were not statistically significant, indicating that it is unlikely that BWCs led to less proactive traffic enforcement.
The FIU study, that included a large and inclusive sample of officers and a longitudinal design, resulted in important findings. BWC implementation in MDPD was associated with statistically significant decreases in citizen complaints against officers, reductions in officer use of force, and excessive force civil cases filed. This internal assessment, which was funded as part of MDPD’s BWCPIP grant, illustrates the type of analysis that can be conducted on the impact of BWCs relying on standard administrative data and with the assistance of qualified academic partners. The full report can be found here.
 From The 2018 Miami-Dade Police Department Review, retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=275649
 This award was made under Funding Category 1: Implementation of New Body-Worn Camera Program for Large Agencies (BJA-2015-4169).
 “EYES ON THE STREET: Police Use of Body-Worn Cameras in Miami-Dade County” by Lisa Stolzenberg, Stewart J D'alessio, and Jamie L Flexon (2018). Free account needed to retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338342878_EYES_ON_THE_STREET_Police_Use_of_Body-Worn_Cameras_in_Miami-Dade_County
This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-DE-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.