In the March PM magazine feature article “Body-Worn Cameras: Separating Fact from Fiction,” authors James Coldren and Michael White tackle these five claims about BWC technology:
#1 [Fiction]: Police Officers Don't Like BWCs.
Available research shows this claim is false. Conventional wisdom suggests that law enforcement interest in BWCs emerged in August 2014, but that is not true. The rapid and widespread adoption of cameras is evidence of the manner in which law enforcement has embraced this technology.
#2 [Fiction]: Residents Approve Police Adoption of BWCs.
Available research confirms this claim is fact. BWCs have been publicly embraced by a number of resident advocacy and human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, citing their value in promoting transparency and public trust.
#3 [Fact]: BWCs Can Lead to Reductions in Police Use of Force and Resident Complaints.
Research also tells that this claim is fact, with some extremely important caveats. The majority of BWC studies have reported significant reductions in these two important outcomes following deployment of BWCs.
#4 [Fact]: BWCs Generate Valuable Evidence.
Available research indicates this claim is fact. Several studies have documented BWCs’ evidentiary value, and some police departments have begun documenting the number of officers exonerated from complaints as an indicator of BWC effectiveness.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, for example, deployed BWCs in 2014–2015. During that time, approximately 70 percent of officers wearing BWCs have been exonerated from complaints as a result of BWC evidence.
#5 [Fiction]: BWCs Will Always Capture What Happens During a Police-Resident Encounter.
Available evidence shows this claim is false. BWCs have numerous limitations involving both humans and cameras that affect the likelihood that they will capture a complete visual and audio record of what has transpired.
Subscribe to Public Management (PM) magazine.