The Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras

The Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras: new findings from a randomized controlled trial at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

Anthony Braga, Ph.D., James R. Coldren, Jr., Ph.D., William Sousa, Ph.D., Denise Rodriguez, M.A., Omer Alper, Ph.D.
NIJ Award No.: 2013-IJ-CX-0016
September 28, 2017

The past several years have witnessed significant growth in the number of police agencies using body-worn cameras (BWCs). It has been reported that over one-third of the 18,000 or so law enforcement agencies in the United States have begun using this technology.1 Implemented in response to increased community criticism after several controversial police use of force incidents, BWCs were seen as a remedy for resolving issues of community trust and a way to increase police accountability. However, BWCs are just one tool to address these issues, and the new technology has limitations. As more law enforcement agencies implement BWCs, it has become clear that the technology’s potential impacts are far-reaching and not widely understood. Successful implementation often requires substantial changes to a police organization and its partners (for example, the prosecutor’s office, defense attorneys, the judiciary) in policy, training, staffing, investigations, and technology. Although research on the impacts of BWCs on use of force, citizen complaints, and community perceptions has grown in recent years2, more research is needed to fully understand the breadth of BWCs’ impact on policing and the criminal justice system.

This paper reports on a randomized controlled trial with BWCs in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). The study sample included over 400 officers concentrated in four area commands (districts) in the LVMPD Patrol Division. The research questions addressed the impact of BWCs on police officer use of force incidents, on the number of complaints filed against police officers, and police officer citations and arrests. The study also included a cost-benefit analysis. Below we describe the process and impact evaluation methods and findings and the implications of this research.

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