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Study: Incidents with Officers Wearing Body Cameras Were More Likely to Result in Use of Force

Incidents involving officers assigned to and activating body-worn cameras were associated with a lower likelihood of a citizen making a complaint.

In 2013 the Phoenix (Ariz.) Police Department received funding to purchase, deploy, and evaluate body-worn video cameras that record the interactions between community members (including the public, suspects, and victims) and officers. The Phoenix Police Department is a large municipal police agency with more than 3,000 authorized sworn personnel who serve a community of more than 1.5 million people.

The body-worn camera equipment is used 7 days a week, during all shifts, by all deployed officers, and allows for all officers to download data before their next shift. All officers who are issued the equipment are provided training on its use and maintenance through a coordinated effort led by the precinct commander and the manufacturer.

Huff, Katz, and Hedberg (2020) found that incidents involving officers assigned to wear and then activating body-worn cameras were less likely to be officer-initiated (proactive police contacts), compared with incidents involving the comparison group officers who were not assigned to wear body-worn cameras. Incidents that involved body-worn camera assignment and activation were 5.5 percent less likely to be officer initiated, compared with incidents that did not involve a body-worn camera activation. The difference was statistically significant.

Incidents involving officers assigned to and activating body-worn cameras were more likely to result in arrest, compared with incidents with the comparison group officers who were not assigned to wear body-worn cameras. Incidents involving body-worn camera assignment and activation were 1.4 percent more likely to result in arrest, compared with incidents that did not involve a body-worn camera activation. The difference was statistically significant.

Incidents involving officers assigned to and activating body-worn cameras were more likely to result in the use of force than incidents with the comparison group officers who were not assigned to wear body-worn cameras. This difference was statistically significant and in the opposite-from-expected direction.

Incidents involving officers assigned to and activating body-worn cameras were associated with a lower likelihood of a citizen making a complaint, compared with comparison group incidents. The difference was statistically significant.

Read more at the National Institute of Justice

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