Warriors and Vigilantes as Police Officers: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Body-Cameras in Rio de Janeiro

37 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2022

See all articles by Beatriz Magaloni

Beatriz Magaloni

Stanford University - Department of Political Science

Vanessa Melo

Stanford University - Center for Latin American Studies

Gustavo Robles

Stanford University

Date Written: January 11, 2022

Abstract

We present the first randomized experiment on police body-cameras in a high-violence setting: Brazil. Camera assignment reduced stop-and-searches and other forms of potentially aggressive interactions with civilians. Cameras also produced a strong de-policing effect, where police wearing cameras were significantly less likely to engage in any form of activity, including responding to requests of help. These changes in police behavior took place even when most officers refused to turn their cameras on when interacting with civilians. Low levels of compliance suggest that this technology in itself is no solution to police brutality. To address this problem, during part of the study we randomly assigned cameras to supervisors and this had a strong effect on frontline officer’s behavior, significantly increasing their policing activities. Police surveys, interviews, and focus group reveal that the organizational culture that perpetuates police violence is a strong factor explaining why officers appear to have sabotaged the cameras.

Keywords: Police violence; body-worn cameras; conflict; urban crime; police abuse; RCT.

Suggested Citation

Magaloni, Beatriz and Melo, Vanessa and Robles, Gustavo, Warriors and Vigilantes as Police Officers: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Body-Cameras in Rio de Janeiro (January 11, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4005710 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4005710

Beatriz Magaloni (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-724-7481 (Phone)

Vanessa Melo

Stanford University - Center for Latin American Studies

Bolivar House 582 Alvarado Row
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Gustavo Robles

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
735
Abstract Views
2,195
Rank
64,542
PlumX Metrics