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Police body-worn camera. (Photo: Morris Township).

Study shows police body cameras are effective

By Ashley Gallagher, July 27 2021 1:41 pm

Body-worn cameras are an effective tool to hold police officers accountable, according to a study completed by Stockton University and two other colleges.

The study, using data from the Chicago Police Department between 2012 and 2020, found that body cameras decrease investigations due to lack of evidence and increased disciplinary action against officers. The investigation was focused on police misconduct against civilians.

“We wanted to determine if video from the body-worn camera affects the conclusion of the investigations and whether bias against complainants based on race would be reduced,” said Nusret Sahin, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Stockton University. “We have found that when a person understands the process, and believes it is fair, they are more likely to accept the results, even if it is not always in their favor.”

American and Georgia State also participated in the study to determine if the outcome of police investigations were impacted by the use of body cameras and concluded that the use of this technology decreased racial disparities within the outcome of complaints.

The study found that complaints from black citizens were more likely to have insufficient evidence before body cameras, by about 15% higher than white citizens, where after body cameras were used, the gap closed to about 2%.

Complaints with insufficient evidence from racial groups decreased as a result of body cameras while the increase in complaints with evidence that lead to disciplinary action rose by roughly 10%, the study determined. Body cameras, in turn, lend more evidence that prompts disciplinary action, while eliminating more complaints that do not have enough evidence for action to take place.

“These perceptions could possibly be altered through effective and transparent police misconduct investigations,” Sahin and his colleagues wrote.  “The employment of BWC footage for investigating misconduct allegations and disciplining wrongdoers could help agencies address citizen expectations of impartial and accountable policing and improve confidence in the motivations and performance of police as impartial societal guardians.”

The data was compiled of complaint date, demographic, nature of the complaint, officers involved, reason for the complaint and status of the complaint, according to the study.

Body cameras are required for officers in the New Jersey, with new legislation introduced in June that would allow officers to watch footage from the body cameras before writing up incident reports. Body cameras have been used so that there is more evidence when situations occur, instead of having people’s words against each other.

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