Police Body Cams Do Not Decrease Use of Force Force
When body worn cameras were first being tested on police, many politicians, police chiefs, and citizens pushed this new technology as a great tool for curbing bad behavior. Studies (mostly by manufacturers of the technology) claimed that behavior on both sides of the camera drastically improved when officers wore video recorders. New evidence challenges these conclusions. According to the data, police body cams do not decrease use of force.
According to a 2 1/2 year study in Washington D.C. comparing officers who wore cameras to officers who did not, use of force saw no decline and the presence of a body worn camera made little to no difference in complaints by citizens. The study involved 2,224 D.C. officers — 1,035 without, 1,189 with police body cams — and started in June 2015. The results of this study are very similar to those of another that was conducted in 2016, read about that one here.
Why Use Police Body Cams?
A main goal of introducing police body cams was to bring transparency and a more urgent sense of responsibility to behavior — both by officers and to those they confront daily. As a step towards being accountable to the public, body worn evidence was expected to be the answer to it all. So even though officer worn video evidence has been of great use to the police department to analyze and understand use of force incidents, the goal to lessen such incidents has not been achieved.
Two interesting tidbits are that officers who wore body cameras reported their own use of force slightly more often than officers who didn’t wear body cams. Secondly, civilians lodged more complaints of excessive force against officers with cameras than those without one.
When police body cams were introduced into departments, officers and their unions were resistant. Over time, officers adjusted to wearing cameras until it is now business as usual.
Companies that offer video and audio forensic services are often approached to enhance, stabilize, clarify, analyze, and testify about police worn body camera video and audio evidence. Many in the forensic community believed from the onset of their use that although wearing police body cams would be resisted by officers, they would inevitably become standard wear, just like guns, badges, and those oh so cool officer sun glasses.
Influx of Evidence from Police Body Cams
Evidence for police shootings and other complex encounters have been improved because of audio and video recordings. In addition, video evidence serves as a valuable tool for training officers and gives the public a real life glimpse into an officer’s work and responsibility.