Body-Worn Cameras in Policing: Benefits and Costs

31 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2022

See all articles by Morgan Williams

Morgan Williams

New York University (NYU) - New York University

Nathan Weil

University of Chicago Crime Lab

Elizabeth Rasich

University of Chicago

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Hye Chang

University of Chicago Crime Lab

Sophia Egrari

University of Chicago Crime Lab

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2021

Abstract

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are an increasingly common tool for police oversight, accountability, and transparency, yet there remains uncertainty about their impacts on policing outcomes. This paper reviews what we know about the benefits of BWCs and how those benefits compare to the costs of this new technology. We make two contributions relative to existing research. First, we update prior meta-analyses of studies of the impacts of BWCs on policing outcomes to incorporate the most recent, and largest, studies carried out to date in this literature. This additional information provides additional support for the idea that cameras may affect a number of policing outcomes that are important from a social welfare perspective, particularly police use of force. Second, we carry out a benefit-cost analysis of BWCs, as financial barriers are often cited as a key impediment to adoption by police departments. Our baseline estimate for the benefit-cost ratio of BWCs is 4.95. Perhaps as much as one-quarter of the estimated benefits accrue to government budgets directly, which suggests the possibility that this technology could, from the narrow perspective of government budgets, even pay for itself.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Morgan and Weil, Nathan and Rasich, Elizabeth and Ludwig, Jens and Chang, Hye and Egrari, Sophia, Body-Worn Cameras in Policing: Benefits and Costs (March 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28622, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3814611

Morgan Williams (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - New York University

Nathan Weil

University of Chicago Crime Lab ( email )

33 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60602
United States

Elizabeth Rasich

University of Chicago

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Hye Chang

University of Chicago Crime Lab ( email )

33 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60602
United States

Sophia Egrari

University of Chicago Crime Lab ( email )

33 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60602
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
5
Abstract Views
204
PlumX Metrics