Exploring the Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement

Police Body Camera

Body-worn cameras help to create more transparency and accountability for officers. They can also improve officer safety and de-escalate confrontational situations.

Many law enforcement departments have adopted body-worn cameras for their officers to record interactions with citizens objectively. 

Improved Public Relations

Body cameras have increased substantially in response to high-profile police misconduct allegations, including shootings and evidence tampering.  BWCs can also improve officer safety and reduce citizen complaints. Front-facing displays, which display the officers’ point of view, defuse confrontational situations by reducing the force used to address them.

However, there are some limitations that departments should consider before implementing BWCs. One of the most important is that adding additional technology to an already complex work environment can be burdensome and affect a department’s ability to function. 

Increased Accountability

Having video evidence of the real-time happenings during an incident can mitigate many frivolous complaints filed against police. This can reduce the amount of time and resources that are spent on processing these cases. Additionally, officers who wear BWCs like the Watchguard body camera may be less likely to engage in misconduct since they know their actions are being recorded. This can reduce accusations of excessive force, improper policing, and evidence tampering.

A BWC can also help to improve officer training by allowing managers and supervisors to review footage and provide feedback. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found that body cameras have resulted in fewer officer-related citizen complaints, more convictions for officers, and faster resolution of those complaints.

The camera can even display the officer’s point of view for a more transparent approach in critical situations. This is especially useful for training or de-escalating confrontational interactions. Leading BWCs can enable commanders and other authorized personnel to livestream an incident in progress, allowing them to respond promptly with support and guidance to the officer.

Reduced Complaints

In the wake of high-profile police-involved shootings and deaths in custody, many law enforcement agencies have implemented body-worn cameras (BWCs) to improve officer accountability and transparency. However, not all BWC programs have been successful. A recent study found that equipping frontline officers with BWCs significantly reduces citizens’ complaints against them.

Across seven sites, complaints dropped from 1,539 during the 12 months before the study to 113 after BWCs were introduced. This was a substantial reduction driven by the fact that BWCs make officers more aware that their actions are being recorded. This, in turn, may lead to a “contagious accountability effect” that spreads from department to department. 

Improved Training

Incorporating body-worn camera footage into training can improve police academy programs and ensure officers are properly trained. It can also reduce the time it takes to review incidents and process complaints. The ability to provide irrefutable evidence of situations speeds up court proceedings and may reduce costs for law enforcement.

Evaluators have found that the use of cameras has a positive impact on officer performance and de-escalation tactics. The presence of cameras can even prevent officers from engaging in inappropriate and potentially unlawful behavior. This is especially true if the officers must notify citizens that they are being recorded.

When a camera is activated, a visible flashing light on the front of the device indicates recording mode has been initiated. In addition, some BWCs have Bluetooth trigger options that activate when certain actions occur, such as turning on cruiser lights or sirens or a crash sensor activation.


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