New Study Shows Body Cams Have Little Influence on Police Brutality

A still from body camera footage showing a police shooting in San Diego
A still from body camera footage showing a police shooting in San Diego

22 October, 2017

David Yokum, director of the D.C. government research arm that conducted the study, said that "additional research that focuses on how camera footage is used in an evidentiary capacity-such as in court, officer training, and personnel matters-may show that a greater value of this tool exceeds traditional ideas".

A trial with 2,224 Metropolitan Police Department officers, about half of whom were chosen at random to be outfitted with the cameras while the other half worked without them, found no statistical difference between the two groups on use-of-force incidents, civilian complaints, and several other metrics. "And that's not a small issue, because there have been many studies of body-worn cameras that are not rigorous", says Michael White, a researcher at Arizona State University who has studied body-worn camera programs in Tempe, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash. In a statement released by Mayor Bowser's office, the mayor's office and police department express confidence that the body-worn cameras can still provide opportunities to train officers. By 2015, 95 percent of large police departments were using them, the article explained.

Meanwhile, almost every major police force in the country was in the process of implementing a body camera program, or had already done so, as several smaller studies showed positive results. The answer will likely vary from department to department.

Since then, excessive use of force and shootings by police have remained relatively low.

The federal government has provided police departments with $40 million for body cameras and state and local governments have contributed significant dollars to them as well.

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The authors of the report say it would be incorrect to draw a direct correlation between the effects of all body cameras and all police forces.

A three-month pilot project starting in January will bring body cameras to 15 city officers and 15 county deputies.

Despite this study's results, the nation's capital has no plans to get rid of its cameras, according to Newsham.

"Police departments have been rushing to body cameras without sufficiently deciding what the goal is", said Seth Stoughton, a former officer and a law professor at the University of SC. "As we conclude this comprehensive study, we will recommit ourselves to always evaluating what works -and what does not- to better serve our residents and creating a safer, stronger DC".

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