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Study: Body cams have no effect on police use of force

"We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras," researcher Anita Ravishankar said


By PoliceOne Staff

WASHINGTON — Body cameras have no impact on an officers’ use of force or citizen complaints, according to a recent study.

NPR reported that the Metropolitan Police Department conducted a study before rolling out a huge camera program amongst their department of around 2,600 officers.

Lab @ DC Director David Yokum’s group randomly selected officers to wear body cams for the study. (Photo/AP)
Lab @ DC Director David Yokum’s group randomly selected officers to wear body cams for the study. (Photo/AP)

"We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras," Metropolitan Police Department and Lab @ DC researcher Anita Ravishankar said.

"I think we're surprised by the result. I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior," Chief of Police Peter Newsham said. "There was no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all."

Chief Newsham added that the behavior may not have changed because his officers "were doing the right thing in the first place."

He cautions people not to misinterpret the study's results. "I am a little concerned that people might misconstrue the information and suggest that the body-worn cameras have no value. I don't think that this study suggests that at all," he says.

Cameras have helped his department back up officer actions during contentious encounters: "I think it's really important for legitimacy for the police department," says Newsham, "when we say something to be able to back it up with a real-world view that others can see."

Lab @ DC Director David Yokum’s group randomly selected officers to wear body cams for the study.

"This is a very methodologically rigorous study. It is very well done. And that's not a small issue, because there have been many studies of body-worn cameras that are not rigorous," Arizona State University body-cam researcher Michael White said.

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