The Impact of Body Worn Cameras on Police Use of Force and Productivity: Evidence from New Jersey
43 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2019 Last revised: 16 Jan 2020
Date Written: October 23, 2019
Recent high-profile and controversial police use of force incidents have spurred protests across the nation, which called for reduction in excessive use of force and greater accountability. Body worn cameras (BWCs) have received extensive attention as a potential solution. Using the staggered adoption of BWCs by New Jersey police departments in the 2010s, this paper examines the effects of introducing BWCs on police use of force and performance. Previous studies on BWCs in single-agency settings have been hampered by empirical challenges of spillover effects and common agency-wide effects, which likely explain why some studies found null effects. As the first cross-agency study on BWCs, this paper is able to overcome these empirical challenges. I find that BWCs are associated with a drop of 43% in use of force, a reduction of 81% in subject injury, yet not with officer injury, or other productivity measures such as crime and clearance rates. These findings imply that BWCs can be a powerful tool in the recent efforts to reduce use of force and improve public trust in police.
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