Exploring the Potential for Body-Worn Cameras to Reduce Violence in Police–Citizen Encounters
One of the most compelling perceived benefits of body-worn cameras (BWCs) involves the potential for reductions in citizen complaints and police use of force. A handful of early studies reported significant reductions in both outcomes following BWC adoption, but several recent studies have failed to document such effects. The current study explores this question using data from a randomized controlled trial conducted in the Spokane (WA) Police Department. Approximately half of patrol officers (n = 82) were assigned BWCs in May 2015, while the other half (n = 67) received their BWCs 6 months later (November 2015). The study explores the effects of BWCs on use of force, complaints against officers, and officer injuries, using more than three years of official department data pre- and postBWC deployment. The outcomes of interest are rare in Spokane, which limited both statistical power and the results from significance testing. However, the within-group trends are consistent with a positive effect, particularly for percent change. Following BWC deployment, the percentage of officers with a complaint in each group declined by 50% and 78% (Control and Treatment, respectively); the percentage of officers with a use of force declined notably (39%) for one group only. The reductions disappeared after 6 months for the Treatment group. There was no relationship between BWCs and officer injuries. The authors discuss the implications of the findings for the ongoing dialogue on BWCs.