Who Watches the Watchmen: Evidence of the Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on New York City Policing

Zamoff, M., Greenwood, B., & Burtch, G. (2021) "Who Watches the Watchmen: Evidence of the Effect of Body-worn Cameras on New York City Policing," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Forthcoming.

62 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2019 Last revised: 7 Feb 2021

See all articles by Mitchell Zamoff

Mitchell Zamoff

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Brad N. Greenwood

George Mason University - School of Business

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Date Written: January 23, 2021

Abstract

We present a multi-year study of the rollout of Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) to the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Our study adds to the prior body of work by clarifying some of the discord within it, particularly with respect to large urban police departments. We estimate the effect of BWC deployment on precinct volumes of citizen stops, arrests, complaints against officers and use-of-force incidents. Results indicate that BWCs drive significant increases in stops and decreases in arrests and citizen complaints. We observe no effect on use of force. We also document heterogeneity in affected stops and complaints. Our findings speak to three potential benefits of BWCs in urban law enforcement: an increase in legitimate stops made by police; a decrease in complaints alleging officers’ abuse of authority; and a reduction in arrests (which appears beneficial, regardless of whether this results from improved behavior among police or citizens).

Keywords: Body-worn cameras, difference in difference, police stops, police arrests, citizen complaints, NYPD

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Zamoff, Mitchell and Greenwood, Brad and Burtch, Gordon, Who Watches the Watchmen: Evidence of the Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on New York City Policing (January 23, 2021). Zamoff, M., Greenwood, B., & Burtch, G. (2021) "Who Watches the Watchmen: Evidence of the Effect of Body-worn Cameras on New York City Policing," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Forthcoming., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3490785 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3490785

Mitchell Zamoff

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Brad Greenwood

George Mason University - School of Business ( email )

VA 22030
United States

Gordon Burtch (Contact Author)

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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