Study: Body Cameras Massively Reduce Police Use of Force—but only if police do not turn the cameras off
Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:
Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force
….Averaged over 10 trials, [body cameras] had no effect on police use of force, but led to an increased rate of assaults against officers wearing cameras.
More accurately, this would be a chin-scratching result if it were true. But even though this is directly from the journal article, it’s a wildly misleading headline. Here are the details:
The researchers set out a protocol for officers allocated cameras during the trials: record all stages of every police-public interaction, and issue a warning of filming at the outset….Researchers found that during shifts with cameras in which officers stuck closer to the protocol, police use-of-force fell by 37% over camera-free shifts. During shifts in which officers tended to use their discretion, police use-of-force actually rose 71% over camera-free shifts.
Yikes! For officers who kept the cameras rolling all the time, use-of-force fell 37 percent. That’s not just huge, it’s positively gargantuan. Use-of-force only increased among officers who turned their cameras on and off. In other words, the real headline result is: keep the cameras rolling all the time and use-of-force plummets. So why on earth does the headline suggest that body cameras have no effect? In fact, their effect ranges from -37 percent (rolling all the time) to zero (control groups) to +71 percent (cameras on and off). That’s gigantic beyond belief. . .
He includes this update:
UPDATE: It turns out there were two separate papers involved. Details here.