Bryce Elling Peterson and Daniel S. Lawrence
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are small devices that police officers can affix to their person—in a head-, shoulder-, or chest-mounted position—that can audio and video record their interactions with community members. BWCs have received strong support from the public and, in recent years, widespread buy-in from police leadership and officers because of their ability to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the collection of evidence. Implementation guidelines recommend that officers activate their BWCs during each officer–citizen interaction and inform the people they encounter that they are being recorded. Early research on this technology found that officers equipped with body cameras were significantly less likely to engage in force and receive citizen complaints. However, more recent studies with larger samples have had mixed findings about the impact of body cameras on use of force, citizen complaints, and other police activities and behaviors.
Numerous legal and ethical considerations are associated with BWCs, including their implications for privacy concerns and public disclosure. However, police officials, policymakers, civil rights groups, and the public must continue to weigh these privacy concerns against the potential for BWCs to enhance police accountability and transparency. Future scholarship should focus on the degree to which BWCs can improve police–community relations and yield valuable evidence for both criminal cases and internal investigations.