395 McNeil, 3718 Locust Walk
The Effects of Body Worn Cameras on Police Activity and Police-Citizen Encounters: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Many have suggested placing body-worn cameras on police officers improves the civility of police-citizen encounters and enhances citizen perceptions of police transparency and legitimacy. In response, many police departments have adopted this technology to address public concerns over the quality of policing in their communities. The existing program evaluation evidence on the intended and unintended consequences of outfitting police officers with body-worn cameras is still developing, however. This study reports the findings of a randomized controlled trial involving more than 400 police officers in Las Vegas, Nevada. The results of the randomized experiment suggest that body-worn camera officers generate fewer complaints and use-of-force reports relative to comparison officers without cameras. However, body-worn camera officers also made more arrests and issued more citations than their non-body-worn-camera counterparts. The findings of this randomized controlled trial raise the possibility that planning for the placement of BWCs on officers should consider the competing effects of improvement in civilian perceptions of police generated by reductions in complaints and use-of-force incidents, and public concerns about increased enforcement activity.
Anthony A. Braga is a Distinguished Professor and the Director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. He is a fellow of the American Society of Criminology. Professor Braga is also a past president and fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology and the 2104 recipient of its Joan McCord Award recognizing his advocacy for randomized controlled experiments in criminology and criminal justice. He is currently serving as a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime, Communities, and Civil Liberties.