Do police body cameras reduce complaints against the police?

Submitted by: Anonymous

Yes, police body cameras do reduce complaints against the police. While the bulk of the studies in this list for which we identified answers agrees with this conclusion, some studies came to different conclusions. We encourage you to consider each of the studies for yourself to understand why they differ.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the 6 studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong.

Chart summary of 6 studies examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Mixed means that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This label is often applied when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). The label Insuff. Evidence means that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. The label No Data means that State of K wasn't able to identify the study's response to the question based on the information that was available. This label is often applied when the person creating the list does not have access to the full text and the answer isn't clear from the abstract.

All labels of Literature Reviews and Highly Regarded Source are assigned by State of K. The label Highly Regarded Source, as applied to journals, is a label assigned to the top 20 journals (as measured by the h-index) in various subcategories as classified and reported by Google Scholar. As applied to NGOs, the label is assigned to US NGOs ranked by the TTCSP Global Go To Think Tank Index Reports. The information contained in a source that is labelled "highly regarded" is not necessarily more accurate than information contained in a source without that label.
Literature Reviews
Although we recommend you consider all of the studies below, we believe the following study is a literature review, which surveys and evaluates many studies on this question:

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Summaries of studies 6
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Maria Emilia Firpo
Ricardo Fraiman
Federico del Castillo
Jordan M. Hyatt
Cristobal Weinborn
Hagit Brants Sabo et al
2018 in Policing: An International Journal
Body-worn video: A systematic review of literature
"Law enforcement use of video-based technology has substantially increased over the past decade. This systematic review examines the current evidence base for efficacy of body-worn video and the current case for implementation. Five articles were identified as pertinent to this review from a search of five electronic databases, with a further six articles of grey literature included. Inter-rater reliability was high amongst three independent screeners of literature. Articles were short listed for review if they explicitly identified police and record-ing devices as topic areas. Articles were then excluded if they did not involve an operational trial of body-worn video. Eleven articles were included for review; of the five peer-reviewed studies, two were randomised controlled trials. An abundance of evidence was provided; however, the majority of articles were methodologically weak. Body-worn video was shown to reduce use of force incidents, crime rates for certain crime types and court costs. Public response to body-worn video was varied, as was police officer and public opinion. Due to methodological limitations evident in most studies and the general lack of peer-reviewed material, further research is required; however, there are some considerable benefits reported in the current literature"
Timothy IC Cubitt
Rebecca Lesic
Gemma L Myers
Robert Corry
2017 in Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology
Insufficient Evidence
Darren Henstock
Josh Young
Paul Drover
Jayne Sykes
Simon Megicks
Ryan Henderson et al
2017 in Criminal Justice and Behavior
Catherine Owens
William Finn
2017 in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice
Evaluating the impact of police officer body-worn cameras (BWCs) on response-to-resistance and serious external complaints: Evidence from the Orlando police department (OPD) experience utilizing a randomized controlled experiment
"Purpose: To evaluate the effect of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) on officers' response-to-resistance (R2R) incidents and serious external complaints.Methods: A randomized experiment was used where 46 officers were randomly assigned to wear BWCs and 43 officers were randomly assigned to not wear BWCs. Pre- and post-BWC implementation outcome data was compared both between and within groups.Results: The results suggest that BWCs are an effective tool to reduce R2R incidents and serious external complaints. Specifically, the prevalence of R2R incidents and the prevalence and frequency of serious external complaints were significantly less for officers randomly assigned to wear BWCs. Pre-post comparisons within groups demonstrated that the reduction in the prevalence of R2R incidents (53.4% reduction) and external complaints (65.4% reduction) were statistically significant for the officers who wore the BWCs, and significant reductions in the frequency of these outcomes were detected as well. Overwhelming agreement was also found among officers who wore the BWCs for the utility of BWCs to improve evidence collection and report writing and improve their behavior and police work in general by having the opportunity to review their own BWC videos.Conclusions: Police departments would be prudent to consider adopting these devices in their agencies."
Wesley G. Jennings
Mathew D. Lynch
Lorie A. Fridell
2015 in Journal of Criminal Justice
The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial
"Police use-of-force continues to be a major source of international concern, inviting interest from academics and practitioners alike. Whether justified or unnecessary/excessive, the exercise of power by the police can potentially tarnish their relationship with the community. Police misconduct can translate into complaints against the police, which carry large economic and social costs. The question we try to answer is: do body-worn-cameras reduce the prevalence of use-of-force and/or citizens’ complaints against the police?MethodsWe empirically tested the use of body-worn-cameras by measuring the effect of videotaping police–public encounters on incidents of police use-of-force and complaints, in randomized-controlled settings. Over 12 months, we randomly-assigned officers to “experimental-shifts” during which they were equipped with body-worn HD cameras that recorded all contacts with the public and to “control-shifts” without the cameras (n = 988). We nominally defined use-of-force, both unnecessary/excessive and reasonable, as a non-desirable response in police–public encounters. We estimate the causal effect of the use of body-worn-videos on the two outcome variables using both between-group differences using a Poisson regression model as well as before-after estimates using interrupted time-series analyses.ResultsWe found that the likelihood of force being used in control conditions were roughly twice those in experimental conditions. Similarly, a pre/post analysis of use-of-force and complaints data also support this result: the number of complaints filed against officers dropped from 0.7 complaints per 1,000 contacts to 0.07 per 1,000 contacts. We discuss the findings in terms of theory, research methods, policy and future avenues of research on body-worn-videos."
Barak Ariel
William A. Farrar
Alex Sutherland
2015 in Journal of Quantitative Criminology