Now comes another study of how body-worn cameras impact police performance, this one suggesting that the public is correct in its general belief that body cams decrease complaints of officer misconduct and use of force.
More than 400 patrol officers and sergeants from the Las Vegas Metropolitan PD—predominately white males with 9-10 years on the job—were divided into camera-equipped and unequipped groups and tracked for a year. Their experiences were then compared with their records for the 12 months preceding the start of the test year.
- Complaints. For those with cameras, the percent that generated at least one complaint of misconduct dropped from about 55% to 38%, while complaints against the non-camera control group remained roughly the same.
- UOF. Camera-wearers who had at least one use-of-force incident dropped from 31% to less than 20%, while the control group’s UOF rate actually increased slightly.
- Enforcement. Officers with body cams issued slightly more citations and made slightly more arrests than their counterparts, despite there being “few differences” in dispatched calls, responses to crimes, and officer-initiated stops.
- Cost. Researchers estimate that body cams save about $3,000 per year per user over their cost “as the result of fewer complaints and fewer resources spent on investigations.”
The study, headed by Dr. Anthony Braga of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Boston, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
A 67-page, detailed report on the findings and their implications, titled “The Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras: New findings from a randomized controlled trial at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department,” is available without charge by clicking here.