Advocates initially pitched the idea of law enforcement wearing body cams, also known as body worn cameras or BWC, as a great way to increase accountability among our law enforcement personnel. The logic was that greater accountability would lead to stronger bonds between communities and the law enforcement officers who serve them.
As this is still relatively new technology, we are only now seeing the first studies on the effectiveness of body cams. One study that stands out is from researchers at George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy1. Although this is the largest study of its kind, the results are still far from conclusive.
There are some interesting revelations
Highlights from the study include:
- Not making a big impact: Simply wearing a body cam has not improved officers’ behaviors, such as job performance, accountability and community relationships.
- Fewer complaints: Despite few changes in behavior, there have been a reduction in the number of complaints filed against officers.
- Turning the tables: The savvier officers are actually using the cameras to their advantage by providing cover against what they feel are frivolous complaints – instead of policing the officers’ behavior, the officers are using BWC on the citizens.
- No effect on arrest rates: After adopting body cams, there was concern regarding the controversial “Ferguson Effect”2. This contentious “effect” argues that officers will not be as productive with added oversight and criticism. This study showed that the body cams did not seem to have any effect on the officers’ arrest rate.
- Footage not always shared: There have been some complaints nationally about law enforcement organizations that do not share or release the body cam video due to legal restrictions.
Time will tell
As body cams and related technology becomes increasingly common, more insight will be gained. As with this current study and previous studies, the effectiveness of body cams is still in question. Hopefully, the dream of stronger accountability will come to pass as well as better relations between communities and law enforcement.
Legal defenses are adjusting
Attorneys can use the information provided by body cams to help their client’s case, so those who face charges will need to discuss whether the officer used his or her body worn camera. Even if they did not, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney has many other tools for helping protect the rights of their clients.
At The Law Office of Brian Jones, our attorneys will review every piece of evidence when building your defense. You can contact us now to schedule your free consultation at our Delaware, Ohio, office.