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The Effects of Body-worn Cameras on Police Activity and Police-Citizen Encounter: A Randomized Controlled Trial

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages
This article reports the findings of a randomized controlled trial that evaluated the effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police activity and police-citizen encounters.

Many have suggested that placing body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police officers improves the civility of police-citizen encounters and enhances citizen perceptions of police transparency and legitimacy. In response, many police departments have adopted this technology to address public concerns over the quality of policing in their communities. The existing program evaluation evidence on the intended and unintended consequences of outfitting police officers with BWCs is still developing, however. The current study of BWC effects involved just over 400 police officers in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evaluation found that officers equipped with body-worn cameras had fewer complaints and use-of-force reports compared with officers without cameras. BWC officers also made more arrests and issued more citations than their non-BWC counterparts. The findings of this randomized controlled trial raise the possibility that planning for the placement of BWCs on officers should consider the competing effects of improvement in civilian perceptions of police generated by reductions in complaints and use of force incidents, as well as public concerns about increased enforcement activity. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018