Body Cameras Have Little Effect on Police Behavior

Aaron Brown
October 22, 2017

In the wake of a public outcry for more body cameras on police officers after high profile police shootings, an independent study has concluded that the use of them has no statistically significant impact on police officer behavior. "I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior".

Part of the issue is that the study acknowledges that police misconduct is not a widespread problem in the DC police department.

The study followed more than 2,000 police officers in Washington who were equipped with cameras over an 18-month period.

There are now no state laws regarding a general policy of use for body-worn cameras in law enforcement, nor any laws dealing with the length of time law enforcement should store the videos. The study ran from June 2015 to last December.

Elsewhere in South Dakota, the Sioux Falls Police Department is conducting a pilot program but has yet to implement body cameras across the agency.

The cameras also raise questions of surveillance and privacy. "As a result, the study's authors concluded that police agencies, ". should not expect dramatic reductions in documented uses of force or complaints, or other large-scale shifts in police behavior, exclusively from the deployment of this technology". Body cameras similarly had little impact on the occurrence of citizen complaints.

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"It's going to be a win-win for both the officers and the citizens because now we're going to have a fully recorded interaction, whether it be a traffic stop or a suspect stop or investigating a crime".

Another possibility is that use-of-force issues before body cameras were employed went largely unreported, and declined after cameras were added. "I don't think that this study suggests that at all", he says.

One 2012 study in Rialto, California, suggested the body cameras have a "calming" effect.

In his view, the cameras have helped his department enormously after contentious encounters like a recent one on Christmas, when police officers fatally shot a man who was brandishing a knife. The video was later released, showing graphic attempts of resuscitating Sterling.

"I think we're surprised by the result", D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham said.

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