This page features commentary from BWC experts, including researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

Current Commentary

Police Body-Worn Cameras: Perspectives from External Stakeholders 

Natalie Todak, Associate Professor, University of Alabama; Janne E. Gaub, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University; and Michael D. White, Associate Director, Arizona State University Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety 

Changes made within policing carry significant downstream implications for the rest of the criminal justice system and for surrounding communities. The relatively recent expansion in police body-worn camera (BWC) programs across U.S. police agencies represents one such change that will have a wide impact on stakeholders both inside and outside the system. We investigated perceptions of BWCs among stakeholders external to two police departments that recently deployed the new technology. Our study participants included courtroom personnel (including prosecutors, and defense attorneys, and judges who work with BWC video footage evidence), professionals who work cooperatively with police in the field (and therefore may be recorded on the BWCs), city leaders, civilian oversight professionals, and victim advocates. Findings from interviews with these stakeholders offer directions for BWC implementation and implications for the technology’s larger social impact.

Stakeholders as a whole were highly supportive of their police department’s decision to implement BWCs. Collectively, they believed BWCs improve the working environment for police officers, offer unique evidentiary value in the courtroom, encourage police accountability, and improve citizen trust in police. Combined with high levels of support from officers and citizens, the findings suggest the external environment is ripe for the continued implementation of BWCs.

Read the full commentary here.

 

Previous Commentaries

Title Author Preview
In View: Commentary from Body Worn Camera Experts

Erika Bierma, Senior Associate at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Criminal Defense Attorney in the Eastern & Western Districts of Wisconsin and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

In the era of Law & Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and other television crime dramas, the public now expects clear and compelling recordings that document the commission of an alleged crime. At a minimum, they expect to see recordings of the arrival of the police on the scene and footage of the person charged with committing the crime. Body-worn camera (BWC)...

In View:The Impact of BWCs From a Prosecutor's Perspective

Damon Mosler, Deputy District Attorney, San Diego County, California

Upon learning that a local law enforcement agency was preparing to deploy body-worn cameras (BWCs), we as prosecutors had to wonder what this new evidence would mean to our presentation of cases in court. Would it mean more or less work? More or fewer trials? Better trial outcomes?


In its simplest form, footage from BWCs could be considered just another type of evidence collected by law...

In View: The Impact of BWCs From a Police Officer's Perspective

Thomas Woodmansee, Senior Advisor, CNA, and former police officer

A Police Perspective


Perhaps no other new technology in American policing history has created such high expectations of establishing police credibility and accountability as have body-worn cameras (BWCs).  But what impact will such expectations have on investigations and trials? In discussions I have had with law enforcement officers around the country, I have learned that most...

In View: Addressing Police Accountability With BWCs and Victims Privacy

Mai Fernandez, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime

Although body-worn cameras (BWCs) can increase police accountability, they also can encroach on victim privacy and interfere with confidential communications. BWCs record sensitive information, the public release of which could be emotionally devastating and/or dangerous to a victim. The goal of every police department is to develop BWC policies and procedures that protect a victim’s right to...

In View: The Importance of BWCs from the Chief's Perspective

Harold Medlock, Chief (ret.) Fayetteville, NC and BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert

In summer 2015, my department received a complaint from a citizen that she had been sexually assaulted by one of my officers while the officer cited her for larceny. The complainant would not come to police headquarters, but instead provided her account by phone. The Internal Affairs Commander began an investigation and, two hours later, I learned that the officer was one of three in our...

In View: The Importance of BWCs from the Officer's Perspective

Wayne A Alsup, Research & Planning, San Antonio Police Department

Police cruisers across America; showcase such popular catch phrases as, “To Protect and To Serve” or, “Serving Our Community”.  Perhaps replacing these phrases with a more tangible creed would be appropriate, such as, “Transparency, Accountability, and Officer Compliance.”  With departments racing to outfit their officers with body worn camera’s (BWCs), there are not only concerns about...

In View: Interpreting BWC Video Footage

Seth Stoughton, Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law

Following the intense public scrutiny of law enforcement since the summer of 2014, community members, politicians, and police executives alike have called for the adoption of body-worn camera (BWC) systems.  There have been a variety of reasons offered in support of body-worn cameras, all of which coalesce around advancing three potential benefits: a signaling benefit, a behavioral change...

In View: A Response to President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing in Relation to BWCs

Dr. Michael White, Co-Director and Subject Matter Expert on the BWC TTA Team, Professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University 

The recent review of the evidence supporting Pillar 3 Recommendations in the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing raises several important issues related to police body-worn cameras (BWCs). The first issue involves the small but rapidly growing body of research on police. When the President’s Task Force final report was released in May 2015, there were...

In View: North Carolina's BWC Law

Laura McElroy, Technical advisor for U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs & BWC TTA SME

A recent survey shows almost all large police agencies in the United States are either using body-worn cameras (BWCs) or in the process of implementing the technology).i Many of these agencies give similar explanations for why they have chosen to embrace this new law enforcement tool—“… to gather evidence, increase transparency, and bolster public confidence,” according to...

In View: BWCs and Their Ability to Reduce Complaints against Officers

Dr. Barak Ariel, Jerry Lee Fellow in Experimental Criminology and Lecturer in Experimental Criminology, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

A recent study published by the University of Cambridge, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, RAND, and several active-duty police officers in the journal...

In View: BWCs and Police Accountability

Dr. Scott H. Decker, Foundation Professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University & BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert. 

Concerns about racial disparity in police actions have prompted a large number of responses from governmental, advocacy, and police groups. Various reports have documented such disparities in the patterns of traffic stops, stop and frisk searches, arrests, officer-involved shootings, and deaths in custody. Efforts to understand and respond to the apparent disparities in how minority citizens...

In View: Commentary on the BWC Policy Report on Civil and Human Rights

Michael D. White, Ph.D., Arizona State University & BWC TTA Co-Director

This week the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn released a scorecard that evaluates the civil rights safeguards of police body-worn camera (BWC) programs in 50 U.S. cities. The Leadership Conference scorecard rates BWC policy on 8 criteria that are directly related to citizen rights and citizen privacy. We read their report with interest, as several of the agencies in...

In View: How BWCs Can Be a Risk Management Lens to Use of Force

Dan Zehnder, Lieutenant for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department & BWC TTA Subject Matter Expert

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are rapidly being deployed in police departments around the country. These deployments come with a host of expectations, as well as challenges. Departments shouldn’t overlook, or underestimate, the simple premise that the day the first BWCs are deployed they begin to document department operations, policy, practices, and training in a detailed manner not previously...

In View:Use of Force Vs. Assaults Against Officers

Michael D. White, Ph.D., Arizona State University, BWC TTA Co-Director

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe, and their colleagues (Ariel et al. 2016a, 2016b) published two papers this week that explore this provocative question. The research designs employed are rigorous, the data are sound, and the results are intriguing. I applaud the researchers for making valuable contributions to the evidence base on body-worn cameras and their impact....