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Study: Police Body-Cams Make Little Difference on Use of Force

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 26, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Some people in Washington think that what they do sets the standard for the rest of the world.

We're not talking about the president. We're talking about the people who work for the mayor's office.

In a new study, they say that police body-cams don't make a difference in changing police behavior. Maybe not in Washington, but they are making a difference elsewhere, as explained below.

No Effect?

The Lab@DC, a team of behavioral and data scientists, tracked the use of police body-cams over a two-year period. They studied them primarily for use-of-force and civilian complaints.

"The Lab partnered with the Metropolitan Police Department to randomly assign officers body cameras," the ABA Journal reported. "The study included 2,200 of the department's 3,800 officers, making it 'one of the largest and most rigorous studies on this issue to date.'"

The results were mixed, but showed "no detectable, meaningful effect on documented uses of force." In other words, the body-cams made no significant difference.

Studies elsewhere suggest otherwise.

Effective Tool

In Florida, the Orlando Police Department found that body-cams made a significant difference. The department, along with researchers from the University of South Florida, studied them for a year and said the cameras "are an effective tool to reduce response to resistance incidents and complaints."

The Rialto Police Department in California also implemented body-cams and saw a change in police behavior. The city commissioned a study, which was published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

Authors William Farrar and Alex Sutherland said "police body-worn-cameras reduce the prevalence of use-of-force by the police as well as the incidence of citizens' complaints."

According to reports, use-of-force cases fell 59 percent and complaints against officers dropped 87 percent there.

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