A study on Washington, D.C., police officers found that the presence of body cameras had no “detectable effect” on whether an officer used force against a citizen or not.
“Randomized Controlled Trial of the Metropolitan Police Department Body-Worn Camera Program,” conducted by the Lab @ D.C., analyzed MPD officers who wore body cameras and those who didn’t in the Friday study.
Overall, the study found that the presence of the body camera had little to no effect on whether officers used force against D.C. residents.
“We learned that BWCs (body worn cameras) do not have a detectable average effect on documented uses of force or civilian complaints. That said, we cannot rule out that BWCs cause small decreases or increases on those two outcomes,” the study noted. “Because this range spans negative, zero and positive values, the result is considered ‘statistically insignificant’ or ‘null.’ More plainly, we interpret this to mean that BWCs had no detectable, meaningful effect on documented uses of force.”
The MPD picked a group of 2,200 police officers to release body cameras to and divided them into two groups: One group had body cameras while the other group did not. The officers had to be active, hold a rank of sergeant or below, be on full administrative duty, had patrol duty or had a non administrative role.
Researchers studied the officers for seven months between June 28, 2015 and Dec. 15, 2016, following the use of force complaints filed against the officers involved, charging decisions and other situations to see how, if at all, the body cameras affected officers’ actions.
The researchers analyzed the data and found that overall, the body cameras didn’t influence officers’ use of force.
“A group of 1,000 officers with BWCs is estimated to make 127 fewer arrests for disorderly conduct in a year than officers without BWCs. However, the data are also consistent with real effect of BWCs being anywhere from a decrease of 671 arrests for disorderly conduct to an increase of 416 such arrests per 1,000 officers, per year,” the study noted, leading the researchers to conclude the “null” effect of body cameras.
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