Body cameras were supposed to help improve policing. They aren’t living up to the hype.
A new study finds that research on the effectiveness of police body cameras has been very mixed.
When discussing ways to address the problem of police violence against black men and women, police body cameras — which are meant to increase accountability and help rebuild community trust — are often touted as a key part of the solution.
But a new study suggests that camera programs alone may not be as impactful as their proponents initially hoped.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University and published Monday in the journal Criminology & Public Policy, is one of the largest reviews of academic research on body cameras to date.
And its findings are eye-opening: Researchers found that while body cameras are widely seen as a means of changing officer behavior for the better, in many departments the cameras have not had a consistent or significant effect on officer behavior or citizen opinion of police.
The study is the latest to note that body cameras, while potentially a very valuable tool in some contexts, should not be expected to single-handedly improve police accountability. Instead, the research suggests that body cameras are only as successful as the departments they are implemented in.
In other words, departments that want to see true improvements in officer-community relations must treat cameras as one step in a broader series of reforms supporting accountability and transparency.
“Expectations and concerns surrounding body-worn cameras among police leaders and citizens have not yet been realized by and large in the ways anticipated by each,” Cynthia Lum, a George Mason professor and one of the authors of the report, said in a statement. “It’s likely that body-worn cameras alone will not be an easy panacea for improving police performance, accountability, and relationships with citizens.”
In the end, the body cam footage can sometimes show very clearly what took place, yet officers are not being held accountable to the footage they were a part of but given a pass for their ‘feelings’ at that moment which cannot be proven. This loses total public trust.