The Power of Observation: An Empirical Analysis of the Effects of Body Worn Cameras on Police Use of Force and Productivity
42 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 23, 2019
Using the staggered adoption of body worn cameras (BWCs) by 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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