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Criminal Justice Collaborative

Study: body-worn camera research shows drop in police use of force.

Cheryl Corley

research about body cameras

Police officer David Moore is pictured wearing a body camera in Ipswich, Mass., on Dec. 1, 2020. The city was among 25 statewide awarded grants to purchase body-worn cameras for videotaping interactions with the public. A new study says the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras. Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images hide caption

Police officer David Moore is pictured wearing a body camera in Ipswich, Mass., on Dec. 1, 2020. The city was among 25 statewide awarded grants to purchase body-worn cameras for videotaping interactions with the public. A new study says the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras.

One of the most powerful examples of the significance of police body-worn cameras played out in a Minneapolis court room during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. The video collected from the body worn cameras of the police officers involved in Floyd's arrest showed his death from a variety of angles and prosecution and defense attorneys used the video extensively as they argued the case.

Across the country, police departments are increasingly using body-worn cameras to better monitor what officers are doing out in the field with the hope that they will reduce the prevalence of misconduct and improve fairness in policing. Still, there's been a lot of uncertainty over whether the technology is actually helpful. In addition, local governments and police departments that have not integrated the technology as part of their policing practice often cite cost as a barrier.

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Now, in one of the latest studies about the equipment, a team of public safety experts and world economists say body-worn cameras are both beneficial and cost effective. They outline their reasoning in a research paper released recently by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice's Task Force on Policing. The report is an update of a variety of studies of body-worn cameras and it also compares the cost of the technology to the dollar value of the benefits that may come as a result.

Professor Jens Ludwig, head of the Crime Lab, says the findings show the key benefit of body-worn cameras is the reduced use of police force. For example, among the police departments studied, complaints against police dropped by 17% and the use of force by police, during fatal and non-fatal encounters, fell by nearly 10%.

"That's hopeful but not a panacea," Ludwig says. "Body-worn cameras are a useful part of the response but not a solution by themselves. Body-worn cameras are not going to solve the problem of the enormous gap we see in police use of force in the U.S. against Black versus white Americans. "

Even so, New York University Professor Morgan Williams Jr. says "integrating the technology into policing practices can be an important step towards making policing fairer and more accountable."

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In 2013, about a third of local law enforcement agencies, used some form of body-worn camera technology. By 2016, the number had grown to nearly 50%. While law enforcement often cites finances as a barrier to adopting body-worn cameras, the researchers say the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras.

The pricetag for police bodycams can be several thousands of dollars per officer since costs include purchasing and maintaining the equipment, paying for storing the enormous amount of information the cameras can collect, and training officers. On the other hand, the study asserts that the dollar value of body-worn camera benefits — the estimated savings generated by a reduction of citizen complaints and averted use of force incidents — along with the cost reductions that could come from fewer investigations, is significant. The study estimates the ratio of the value of the benefits compared to the cost of body-worn cameras at 5 to 1 and well above an estimated 2 to 1 cost-benefit of hiring more police.

"If you are a local government looking at adopting the cost, from your narrow green eyeshade bottom line, the technology probably pays for itself," Ludwig says. "And the benefits to the public are a huge win and easily outweigh the cost."

The study notes, however, that the research developed so far about body-worn cameras is limited since results are based on data from police departments that were the first to adopt the new technology. It could also be, says Ludwig, that body-worn cameras and the impact they have on policing will be different as people figure out better ways to use the technology.

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What evidence supports the use of Body Worn Cameras in mental health inpatient wards? A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the effects of Body Worn Cameras in public sector services

Keiran wilson.

1 Health Services and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, London UK

Jessica Eaton

2 Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London UK

Madeleine Ellis

Ellen thomas, alan simpson.

Body‐Worn‐Cameras (BWCs) are being introduced into Mental Health Inpatient Units. At present, minimal evidence surrounding their use in a mental health environment exists. This review examined research on the uses of BWCs in public sector services including healthcare, public transportation, and law enforcement. All eligible studies included a visible BWC, recording on a continuous loop as the main intervention. The evidence base presented high levels of bias, highly varied camera protocols, and heterogeneity of outcome measurements. This review found there is limited evidence for the efficacy of BWCs to control and manage violence within mental health inpatient wards. The technology has shown to be effective in reducing the number of public complaints in a law enforcement setting, but it is unclear how this is achieved. It appears there may be potential beneficial uses and unintended consequences of BWCs yet to be explored by mental health services.

INTRODUCTION

The use of digital technology in healthcare settings has increased over recent years and presents new opportunities for the delivery of physical and mental health services in the United Kingdom (Department of Health and Social Care 2019 ). In 2005, CCTV was first introduced as a technological surveillance tool for maintaining staff and patient safety in a range of healthcare settings (Desai 2009 ). Continued technological advances in this field have led to the development of wearable camera technologies referred to here as Body Worn Cameras (BWCs). These small transportable devices are usually worn on the outside of clothing, glasses, or headwear to produce video and audio recordings (The Metropolitan Police, 2020 ).

This technology has been in use by police in the UK since 2005 (The Home Office 2007 ) and it is estimated that over 70% of police forces have started to adopt the use of BWCs (Lum et al . 2020 ). In a police setting, research suggests BWCs may enhance transparency, supplement documentation, and deter illegal and inappropriate behaviours from both officers and citizens (Bureau of Justice Assistance 2015 ). However, there is a lack of evidence supporting their efficacy, cost effectiveness, and wider social impact. The only comprehensive systematic review of literature to date found that the use of BWCs by police officers had no significant impact on police (mis)use of force or assaults against officers (Lum et al . 2020 ).

Despite a lack of evidence to support the use of BWCs in public sector services, The National Health Service (NHS) has pledged to invest (UK) £8 million in pilot testing BWCs as a way to enhance staff safety and assist in prosecuting violence against staff (Department of Health and Social Care 2019 ). Since this announcement, we have seen the roll out of BWCs in ambulance services across the country (London Ambulance Service 2021 ) and initial pilot testing in inpatient mental health services (Ellis et al . 2019 ). Safety is a considerable issue within mental health services, where staff are 7.5 times more likely to report they have been attacked than staff in other NHS services (Royal College of Nursing 2018b ). In 2020, 14.9% of staff in mental health trusts claimed that they experienced physical violence from service users or other members of the public (NHS Staff Survey 2020 : National Results Briefing 2021 ). Despite the higher rates of physical assault against staff, only 4% of alleged physical assaults by psychiatric inpatients were reported to the police in 2018 and even fewer resulted in action taken (Doedens et al . 2020 ; Young & Ready 2016 ). In a mental health setting, BWCs allow staff to record situations where conflict may occur, and containment measures may be used. However, the use of BWCs in mental health settings is in its infancy and is a strongly contested intervention (Royal College of Nursing 2018a ).

The high rate of assault against mental health nurses contributes to the high rate of staff turnover in mental health services (NHS Improvement 2019 ; Royal College of Nursing 2018b ). Despite identifying the staffing crisis as a priority in the Five Year Forward View 2017–2019 report (Department of Health and Social Care 2017 ) and the NHS Long Term Plan (Department of Health and Social Care 2019 ), the number of mental health nurses increased by <0.5% over 2019 (Buchan et al . 2019 ) and recruitment and retention remain huge challenges (Launder 2020 ). Understaffing plays a key role in the deterioration of patient care (Baker et al . 2019 ), and BWCs may be implemented in an attempt to improve staff safety and ultimately improve patient care.

However, conflict and violence in mental health wards is a complex issue that affects both staff and patients (Bowers 2014 ; Fletcher et al . 2021 ; Kumar et al . 2001 ). Research and audits conducted in inpatient services in England revealed patients often experience verbal abuse, fighting, bullying, theft, racism, and sexual assault (Care Quality Commission 2018 ; Jones et al . 2010 ). Mental health staff have a responsibility to protect their patients from physical and psychological harm during their stay; yet, frequently staff interactions with patients can fuel conflict (Papadopoulos et al . 2012 ). Mental health nurses are the staff group most likely to be involved in face‐to‐face interactions with service users who may be highly distressed and/or frustrated by the restrictions typically imposed within inpatient settings to maintain safety, such as removing personal items, restricting smoking, or limiting movements (Bowers et al . 2015 ). There are currently evidence‐based interventions, such as the Safewards model, which have been found to reduce incidents of conflict and use of containment measures (e.g., seclusion, restraint) on mental health wards (Bowers 2014 ). However, chronic understaffing can make it difficult to implement these effective interventions more widely (McAllister et al . 2019 ).

Ethical concerns remain central to wider debates surrounding the implementation of BWCs in mental healthcare settings (Royal College of Nursing 2018a ). Those who require care in an inpatient mental health ward are often admitted against their will and are at the most vulnerable point in their patient journey (Care Quality Commission 2019 ). Further, Black and South Asian minority groups are disproportionately detained under mental health legislation in the UK, and Black patients are more likely to be subject to measures to maintain safety, such as use of physical restraint (Barnett et al . 2021 ; Payne‐Gill et al . 2021 ; Rodrigues et al . 2020 ). Implementation of BWCs would likely have the greatest impact on this already vulnerable group.

While policy makers hope this new technology will bring improvements to the delivery of mental health services, it is essential that patients receive care based upon the best current evidence in conjunction with clinical expertise and patient values (Reid et al . 2017 ). A small number of BWC evaluations in mental health wards in England have been undertaken (Ellis et al . 2019 ; Hardy et al . 2017 ), but given their relatively small scale and localised focus, a wider review is required. The lack of research on BWCs in a mental health setting means it is essential to draw upon the wider literature in the public sector to explore its effects and consequences. A systematic review provides the opportunity to appraise and synthesise existing evidence across the public sector and make recommendations regarding the potential future use of BWCs in a mental health environment (Pati & Lorusso 2018 ).

This review seeks to answer the research question: Are BWCs likely to enhance safety in mental health inpatient wards based on the literature regarding BWC use across a range of public sector services ? The primary objective is to identify and systematically review literature relating to the use of BWCs in the public sector, assessing where/how BWCs are being deployed, the methods used to conduct such research, and the effect of BWCs in these settings. The findings and implications associated with BWCs in public sector services will be discussed in relation to their suitability for mental health services.

We conducted a systematic review using narrative synthesis in accordance with the Guidance on the Conduct of Narrative Synthesis (Popay et al . 2006 ). This approach facilitates synthesis of a range of methodologies and study designs and allows a focus on the wide range of BWC applications in public services. A meta‐analysis of this literature was not a suitable way to address the research questions proposed in this review (Borenstein 2009 ). For the purposes of this review, public sector services are defined as central government, local government, and public corporations delivering services to citizens, including healthcare, law enforcement, and public transportation (Office for National Statistics 2019 ).

Protocol and registration

The review protocol was registered with PROSPERO before commencement (CRD42020164878).

Eligibility criteria

Studies were only included where they met the following criteria: BWC was a standalone, visible device able to provide continuous video playback; BWC was attached to a member of staff working in a public sector service; BWC was used to record face‐to‐face interactions with the public or service users; and the study reported the methodology for evaluation. Studies were excluded if the BWC was used as a data collection tool; BWC was used outside the public sector; or BWC use was reported in an internal evaluation without reporting the methodology.

Database coverage

A search of all relevant literature was undertaken with librarian assistance using the following databases: Medline (via Ovid, 1966 to 25/05/2021); Embase (via Dialog 1974 to 25/05/2021); PsycINFO (via Datastar 1806 to 25/05/2021); Global health (via Ovid, 1966 to 25/05/2021); HMIC (via Ovid, 1979 to 25/05/2021); Web of Science (via Clarivate 1975‐ 25/05/2021); Sage Journals (via Datastar 1994‐ 25/05/2021); OpenGrey (1972 to 25/05/2021) and Google Scholar (2004‐ 25/05/2021). No limits or filters were imposed. Searches were supplemented by reference list screening and BWC websites were reviewed for publications (Reveal, Axon, Google Glass, Calla, VIEVU, Panasonic and Puma). Email alerts from all journals and RSS feeds from camera websites were utilised to ensure identification of new articles.

Search strategy

A keyword search was applied to all databases using the search terms; Body adj3 camera* OR Wearable video OR Wearable camera* OR Body worn video. An initial scoping search revealed most journal articles had yet to be indexed under a MeSH term, therefore, MeSH terms were omitted from the facet analysis.

Study selection

In May 2019, the search was conducted by JE. In May 2021, the search was repeated by KW to capture new research that was published in the time elapsed since the initial search. PRISMA reporting guidelines were followed, and a full PRISMA chart can be found in Figure  1 . Referencing software Zotero was used to de‐duplicate, and articles were screened in Microsoft Excel. To ensure unbiased selection, title and abstract screening was undertaken by two independent researchers (First search: JE, UF; Second search: KW, UF). Full text screening utilising the same criteria was undertaken. Full text exclusions were documented along with reasons. Disagreements at any stage were resolved by a third reviewer (AS; n  = 6).

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Object name is INM-31-260-g001.jpg

PRISMA flow diagram (Moher et al . 2009 ).

Data collection

Data was extracted using a pre‐designed data collection tool included in the PROSPERO registration. The tool includes country, study design, sample size, setting, main method, camera user, recording subject, camera model, comparison arm, study length, outcome measures, and funding source. The form was piloted on 10 studies during the initial search to ensure suitability. No amendments were made. No limit on summary measures were implemented and all relevant results were collected. Efforts were made to contact authors for missing information wherever possible.

Quality appraisal

All studies were reviewed for selection, performance, attrition, detection, and publication bias. The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal tool was utilised (Aromataris & Munn 2020 ). Critical appraisal of all included studies was undertaken individually by JE and UF. No discrepancies were apparent. Individual scores attained from the tool were then collated to review bias across studies.

Results were divided into healthcare, law enforcement, and public transport sectors and analysed using a narrative synthesis approach according to an established framework (Popay et al . 2006 ). With this approach, main findings from the quantitative studies in each sector were summarised and further supplemented with examples from the qualitative studies. KW, JE, and ME identified the effects, outcomes, and experiences of BWCs from the qualitative data.

Study characteristics

An overview of the 52 studies included in this review can be found in Appendix  A . Most were conducted in law enforcement settings (including police officers, prison guards, and traffic wardens; N  = 43), followed by healthcare (including physicians, frontline clinical staff, paramedics, and family carers; N  = 8) and transportation (railway ticket inspectors; N  = 1). There was a wide range of study designs, such as randomised control trials, pilot evaluations, and qualitative interviews; however, not all studies explicitly reported their chosen design.

Participants

BWC research is comprised of various units of analysis reported alongside participant population data. A total of 10 articles reported the number of cameras used in the study (7 in law enforcement, 2 in healthcare, 1 in public transportation). Participant figures are more commonly reported than number of BWCs due to frequent sharing of a limited number of cameras across entire departments. Across all studies, 46 reported a specific count of participants (6 in healthcare, 39 in law enforcement, 1 in public transportation). Other units of measurement reported in lieu of participants or number of cameras include shift patterns (Ariel et al . 2015 ), contacts or interactions with police (Young & Ready, 2016 ), geographic regions (Grossmith et al., 2015 ; Mitchell et al. 2018 ), caregiving pairs (Matthews et al . 2015 ), and physician consultations (Gupta et al . 2016 ).

BWC intervention

The model of camera used also varied widely across the studies. Police studies primarily used TASER cameras; however, 23 of these studies neglected to declare a model. One study (Ho et al . 2017 ) used TASER cameras in a healthcare setting with paramedics. However, Google Glass (4) and Calla (2) were most common in healthcare settings. There was also variability in protocol reporting. Only 17 out of 52 (32%) studies reported recording protocols, and these were primarily law enforcement. The practice of camera wearers verbally announcing recording varied and a range of visual warnings to alert others varied from audible sounds, flashing lights and activation of screens. Camera activation was either at staff discretion or mandatory for the duration of a shift.

Research quality

All studies were reviewed for selection, performance, attrition, detection, and publication bias. The JBI Critical Appraisal tool was utilised. Critical appraisal of the included studies was undertaken by three researchers (JE, UF, KW). No discrepancies were apparent. Individual scores attained from the tool were then collated to review bias across studies and assess quality. Overall, 30 out of the 52 studies included in this review were of poor quality, with a high risk of bias. Only five studies displayed low enough risk to be classified as good quality research. Quality assessment can be found in Appendix  A .

Funding and costs

A total of 19 studies reported funding sources. A further six studies did not receive funding, and the remaining 30 studies neglected to report on funding sources. Of the 19 reports of funding, 8 were funded by a federal government body (e.g., Bureau of Justice, Home Office, US Department of Justice), and 4 were funded by other government bodies such as local task force and police budgets. Five studies (Ariel et al . 2015 ; Ariel 2016b ; Ellis et al . 2019 ; Hardy et al . 2017 ; Mitchell et al . 2018 ) reported receiving camera equipment free of charge from the company. Overall, law enforcement studies account for 80% of studies with undeclared funding.

Three studies (Braga et al . 2018 ; Hardy et al . 2017 ; ODS Consulting 2011 ) report on the total costs of BWC implementation, including hardware, software, and training. On average, the cost per BWC was £1,750. However, none of the studies in this review included an economic analysis in which wider consideration of resource use, training costs, health benefits, and opportunity costs can be calculated and analysed.

Outcomes in transportation sector

Only one study examined the use of BWCs by staff at railway stations across England (Ariel et al . 2019 ). The results from this randomised controlled trial indicated a 47% reduction in odds of assaults against staff when wearing BWCs. This article positions BWCs as beneficial to employee health and safety by reducing rates of violence against staff.

Outcomes in law enforcement sector

Most studies included in this review were from law enforcement settings (43 out of 52). Twenty of those studies examined the impact of BWCs on one or more of the following outcomes (Table  1 ): police behaviour (use of force, arrest rates), citizen behaviour (complaints, assault against officers). Combinations of these four variables were the most frequently examined outcomes. Additionally, 12 studies examined both civilian and police opinions on BWCs. Other less frequently examined outcomes were court processes (Morrow et al . 2016 ; Owens et al . 2014 ), traffic stops (Peterson et al . 2018 ), stop and frisks (Young & Ready 2016 ), response time/time spent on scene (Wallace et al . 2018 ), camera activation (Roy 2014 ; Young & Ready 2016 ), and public reporting of crime (Ariel 2016a ).

Impact of BWC on police use of force, arrest rates, citizen complaints, and officer assaults

* p  < 0.05; ** p  < 0.01; *** p  < 0.001.

– Not measured.

Officer Behaviour

Two studies reported an increase in officer‐initiated contact (Wallace et al . 2018 ; Young & Ready 2016 ), and a third reported a decrease (Huff et al . 2020 ). Although (Young & Ready 2016 ) reported an increase in officer‐initiated contact, they also reported that officers were less likely to perform stop and frisks while wearing BWCs. However, BWCs were not found to impact response time or time spent on scene once contact was initiated (Wallace et al . 2018 ). Research also shows a mix of statistically significant increases (Braga et al . 2018 ; Huff et al . 2020 , Morrow et al . 2016 ) and decreases (Headley et al . 2017 ; Young & Ready 2016 ) in arrest rates, and one study reported no change at all (Wallace et al . 2018 ). No conclusions can be drawn about the impact of BWCs on officer‐initiated contact or arrest rates based on this literature.

Four studies reported significant decreases in police use of force resulting from BWC use (Ariel et al . 2015 ; Braga et al . 2018 , 2020 ; Groff 2020 ). Two further studies also reported a slight decrease in use of force but neglected to report the statistical significance of this change (Jennings et al . 2017 ; Rankin 2013 ). Additionally, one study reported a decrease in use of force rates only when controlling for compliant handcuffing (Henstock & Ariel 2017 ). However, (Huff et al. 2020 ) reported a small but significant increase in use of force following BWC activation. There appears to be a trend toward decreased use of force after implementing BWCs, but inconsistencies in methods and measures across the literature make it difficult to draw solid conclusions.

Officer opinions

When asked about BWCs, the ten studies examining police perspectives report mixed opinions. Some studies have found police officers believe the cameras are helpful and should be implemented (George & Meadows 2016 ; Pelfrey & Keener 2016 ; Ready & Young 2015 ), while others report neutral and negative leaning opinions (Hyatt et al . 2017 ). For example, officers in one study believed that BWCs enhance the quality of evidence, particularly in prosecuting domestic violence cases (Gaub et al . 2016 ). However, another study reported contradictory findings in which officer perspectives on BWC helpfulness for interpersonal violence prosecution was less favourable after BWC implementation (Morrow et al . 2016 ).

Qualitative studies examining police officer perspectives highlighted some of the perceived benefits of BWCs. One common belief was that BWCs can protect officers against citizen complaints:

You give the command, the dog pops off and comes back to you, and that’s captured on camera. I mean that’s gold to us. Later down the road if there is any civil litigation, it’s there. It’s captured for the argument that the dog stayed on too long. Canine Officer (Gaub et al. 2020 ) …don’t think they will create any problems for the officers although they may hold some officers to a higher standard of professionalism, will assist in stopping complaints about officers if they occur. Police officer (Makin 2016 )

Officer beliefs about the impact of BWCs on civilian behaviour were mixed. One study found that while some officers believed the cameras would benefit the officers, they did not believe the cameras would enhance officer safety or change civilian behaviour (Pelfrey & Keener 2016 ). This contradicts the results of another police survey in which officers reported beliefs that BWCs do change civilian behaviour (George & Meadows 2016 ). Similarly, a BWC pilot evaluation in the UK found that prison staff showed increased perceptions of safety after BWC implementation (Pope et al . 2020 ).

There have also been contradictory findings on whether police officers feel the implementation of BWCs has impacted their own behaviour. One qualitative study demonstrates possible positive behaviour changes resulting from BWC use:

This was a pretty straightforward situation. But when you know, you are having a bad day, or you are in an intense situation you know? I would normally maybe let a curse word fly. And we are not allowed to curse at citizens, but you know, we all do that from time to time. Now, I tend to watch myself a little more. Patrol officer (Koen et al. 2019 )

However, George and Meadows ( 2016 ) found that officers believed the cameras would improve the behaviour of their colleagues, but not their own.

These studies also highlighted perceived challenges and limitations to BWC use. Volume of calls, technical limitations of recording and battery capacity, and documentation procedures were all identified as problems (Gaub et al . 2020 ). Another concern raised by officers was that BWCs would be used as a tool to control and discipline the officers:

Regardless of statements used by management, the primary use of these videos will be to police the officers’ actions and to be used for disciplinary actions. Police officer (Makin 2016 )

In addition to concerns about BWCs being used to discipline officers, another officer raised a concern about officers manipulating footage:

Cameras have limited abilities and perceptions and could be used negatively by outside influences to create problems. How many times have you seen video where the clips were cut to create the perception someone wanted to portray, rather than the entire circumstance? Police officer (Makin 2016 )

Ultimately, officer opinions appear to be the most robust and widely researched aspect of BWC implementation in law enforcement. The opinions of officers vary widely, and qualitative research has captured this in detail.

Citizen behaviour

Rates of citizen complaints were frequently reported alongside police use of force and arrest rates. Despite being a measure of citizen activity, complaints are most frequently operationalised as a measure of officer behaviour. Ten studies reported decreases in citizen complaints; however, three of those studies neglected to report statistical significance of that decrease (Ellis et al . 2015 ; Jennings et al . 2017 ; Rankin 2013 ).

Methods for reporting changes in officer assaults varied across the five studies which examined this outcome. A pilot study of BWC use by a police force in Scotland reported a decrease in assaults with no statistics to support this statement (ODS Consulting 2011 ). Another study also reported a significant difference (Ariel et al . 2018 ), but this is contradicted by an earlier study which reported an increase in assaults against officers (Ariel et al . 2016 ). A further two studies reported no significant changes (Headley et al . 2017 ; Peterson et al . 2018 ). Additionally, one study reported assaults by comparing the frequency of change in assault rates per prison, rather than reporting specific changes in actual assault rates (Pope et al . 2020 ); therefore, this study cannot be directly compared to studies that reported figures for assaults. This study reports that prison sites with BWCs experienced fewer officer assaults after implementation; however, this was statistically insignificant. It is unclear from the existing literature whether BWCs have an impact on assaults against officers.

Citizen opinions

When asked how BWCs would impact police behaviour and outcomes, 99.4% of citizens surveyed in one study supported police use of BWCs. Citizens surveyed in this study also believed BWCs would improve the quality of police behaviour, increase lawfulness and transparency, and reduce corruption (Demir 2019 ). When BWCs were present in another quasi‐experimental study, citizens perceived the officer’s behaviour more positively, and ultimately perceived police as more legitimate (Demir et al . 2020 ). However, prisoner interviews conducted during a pilot evaluation of BWCs in UK prisons reported less favourable opinions about BWCs, and a perception that staff/prisoner relationships were negatively affected following implementation (Pope et al . 2020 ). Ultimately, prisoners felt less safe after BWC implementation and perceive the cameras as a violation of privacy:

It is another intrusion of the little privacy I had left. Prisoner (Pope et al . 2020 )

Like the concerns raised by police officers about officer manipulation of footage, prisoners also raised concerns about how staff are using the BWCs:

Body worn cameras are not being used as it should be. It is being used just to set up prisoners for nicking. Prisoner (Pope et al . 2020 )

While officer perspectives on BWCs have been researched in some depth, research on citizen and prisoner perspectives is far less robust.

Outcomes in healthcare sector

Five studies examined BWCs in emergency settings, including surgical consultations (Gupta et al . 2016 ), poisoning assessments (Skolnik et al . 2016 ), stroke assessment (Noorian et al . 2019 ), paramedic activity (Ho et al . 2017 ), and trauma triage (Broach et al . 2018 ). Findings indicate that diagnoses and assessments made with BWC technology are just as reliable as those made in‐person (Broach et al . 2018 ; Noorian et al . 2019 ; Skolnik et al. 2016 ). However, these studies are quasi‐experimental and observational in design, with small sample sizes (≤10). Therefore, individual preferences, practice patterns or policy decisions can impact selection criteria for participants and outcomes cannot be attributed to the intervention alone (Carlson & Morrison 2009 ).

Further, one study used medical simulation to evaluate the use of BWCs for documenting paramedic call outs. The purpose of using BWCs in this study was not to improve quality of care or safety; rather, it was specifically to improve staff documentation of paramedic activity. At present, current Emergency Medical Services documentation practices are usually taken from memory after the event. A simulation of an unconscious patient was played out by role players to investigate whether the accuracy of documentation could be improved by retrospectively watching BWC footage of the scene. Watching BWC footage after callouts resulted in 71 changes to documentation regarding missing or incorrect information from paramedic reports; the authors only report raw data and cannot comment on the relationship between the variables. This research presented BWCs as a solution to improve and streamline current ways of working. The technology shows potential for improving documentation, but this research base is still developing.

In addition to emergency assessment and documentation accuracy, qualitative findings highlighted the importance of streaming footage for dementia patients who face barriers in accessing healthcare:

I just think that it could help the doctors, because…they don’t want to come into the house… And that, honestly, was the biggest problem – she went for a year without seeing a doctor in the moderate to late‐stage Alzheimer’s range…But this could help in that way…if it was forwarded to the doctor’. Family caregiver (Matthews et al . 2015 )

Mental health

Only two studies included in this review examined the use of BWCs in mental health settings (Ellis et al . 2019 ; Hardy et al . 2017 ). Both studies reported on the use of BWCs in mental health settings, with one reporting from the north of England and one from the greater London area. The first (Hardy et al . 2017 ) was a feasibility study, which employed 12 cameras, provided free of charge by Calla, across five wards (two recovery, one low secure, one acute, and one intensive). This study reported an increase of verbal abuse and violence on three wards. A further two wards reported decreases in violence and low‐level restraint. However, two wards also reported increases in low‐level restraint. Finally, three wards reported a reduction in emergency restraint. It is important to note that these figures are only descriptive and have not been reported in relation to the type of ward. Therefore, it is not possible to make any claims about the impact of BWCs depending on level of ward security or admission type. [Correction added on 23 December 2021, after first online publication: the second sentence in the preceding paragraph has been amended and was originally “Both studies reported on the use of BWCs at the same NHS trust in the north of England.”]

Researchers also collected qualitative responses from staff and patients about their perspectives on the pros and cons of BWCs. Staff who wore cameras expressed positive perceptions:

‘I think it prevents lots of aggression and puts patients’ minds at ease knowing there is a record of what happened’. Staff member (Hardy et al . 2017 )

However, staff who did not wear cameras expressed more mixed opinions:

‘They cause more problems because the responding staff will only capture from the time of arrival hence does not give a clear picture of what has been happening prior to that’. Staff member (Hardy et al . 2017 )

Of the 57 patients surveyed, 68% felt the cameras would change staff behaviour and 63% felt it would change patient behaviour:

It may make staff more confident to approach and help distressed patients, it makes them feel safer at work so happier and more able to help patients. Patient (Hardy et al . 2017 )

However, some patients expressed less favourable perspectives:

It causes patients to be more irritable and angry when they think they are being observed. Patient (Hardy et al . 2017 )

The second study (Ellis et al . 2019 ) was a quasi‐experimental trial conducted two years after the feasibility study. This trial involved 50 cameras, again provided by Calla, across seven wards (two acute, one intensive, one forensic low secure, one medium secure, and two enhanced medium wards). This study reported on the context of each ward in more depth than the feasibility study, and also reported findings specific to the type of ward. The authors evaluated recorded incident data pre and post implementation of BWCs. Incidents were ranked by seriousness, ranging from 1 (verbal aggression) to 4 (restraint requiring tranquilising injection). Overall, a non‐significant decrease in incidents was reported, but a significant change in the seriousness of incidents across specific ward types was found. The two acute wards showed a significant increase in low level violence without restraint, and a decrease in incidents involving restraint with tranquilising injections. No difference was reported on the medium, intensive, or forensic wards. [Correction added on 23 December 2021, after first online publication: “at the same site” has been removed from “The second study.…feasibility study.” in the preceding paragraph]

Despite the low‐quality research and mixed findings, both studies report that BWCs are acceptable, beneficial, and effective tools in a mental health setting. It is important to note that both studies received cameras free of cost from the manufacturers, thus may be subject to bias. Ellis et al . ( 2019 ) provided a disclosure statement explaining that the lead author’s expenses were reimbursed by the camera company but maintained that the evaluation was conducted independently. Hardy et al . ( 2017 ) did not include a disclosure statement but did thank the camera company for providing cameras and training free of charge in the acknowledgements section of the article.

The primary objective of this review was to evaluate public sector use of BWCs in order to inform judgement about their suitability in mental health services. Results from this review highlight that BWCs are being implemented and utilised for different purposes across the public sector. In medical and emergency healthcare settings, BWCs tend to serve an explicitly therapeutic purpose by aiding in virtual assessments, diagnosis, and documentation. Similarly, in dementia care wearable cameras are being utilised for remote care and assessments to aid the safety of patients. The healthcare literature included in this review indicates that BWCs are successfully being used for telehealth purposes in a variety of contexts. Despite the apparent success of BWCs in medical healthcare settings and the growth of tele‐mental healthcare before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic (Barnett et al . 2021 ; Mishkind et al . 2021 ), there appears to be less research focussed on the potential therapeutic value of BWCs in mental health settings and much more on its role in law enforcement and prevention of violence.

This review found that mental health services are beginning to use BWCs similarly to the law enforcement sector’s use of this technology to document and deter aggressive incidents. The similarities between BWC use in mental health and police settings indicates that mental healthcare aligns more with the narrative of control and coercion prevalent in policing, rather than the arguably more patient‐centred approach found in physical healthcare. However, this distinction is not clear cut; reducing aggression and assaults in mental healthcare settings helps create a safer, calmer therapeutic environment that benefits patients, aids the wellbeing and retention of staff, and reassures families. The question remains as to whether BWCs are an effective and acceptable method of achieving that while maintaining parity of esteem between mental and physical healthcare (Panday 2016 ).

Research into the use of this technology in mental health settings remains in its infancy as evidenced by the limited number and quality of papers found within this review (Ellis et al . 2019 ; Hardy et al . 2017 ). These early pilot studies of BWCs in mental health settings present significant limitations due to low quality design, urging caution in drawing any conclusions around the impact on staff and service user behaviour.

While there does appear to be a trend toward decreased police use of force after implementing BWCs, this review found that there are inconsistencies in reporting methods and operational definitions making it difficult to draw solid conclusions based on this literature, and thus calling into question the applicability of such evidence to mental health settings. The review also indicates a reduction in complaints against police officers; however, the evidence fails to address whether BWCs result in fewer false accusations of police misconduct, or whether it deters officers from exercising illegitimate use of force. It is also unclear whether BWCs have an impact on citizen assaults against officers. Therefore, this review indicates there is no generalisable research supporting the use of BWC to reduce patient violence against staff, which is the main motivation for implementation in mental health settings (Hancock 2018 ). Despite the large evidence base examining BWC use in law enforcement settings, it is unclear if or how BWCs may enhance safety for either citizens or police officers. The heterogeneity of the samples, study settings, and cofounding factors also means to draw conclusions on the use of BWCs in a mental health setting based on law enforcement outcomes would be naïve.

It is important to recognise the different environments in which police officers and mental health staff work. Most of the research examining BWCs in law enforcement settings rely on patrol officers interacting with members of the public on the street. Mental health wards are enclosed spaces in which the wearer often has an ongoing relationship with the person they are recording. Mental health staff have a duty of care to vulnerable patients and reliance on building and sustaining therapeutic relationships is arguably not as relevant in public police–citizen interactions. Such differences may not only have a confounding influence on the nature and outcome of BWC use in mental health settings, but they may also lead to unintended consequences.

Based on the very limited evidence from mental health settings, BWCs may decrease high‐level incidents and increase low‐level incidents of aggression on inpatient wards. However, using BWCs to change patient behaviour raises questions around technological coercion (Morris 2021 ). While there is very little evidence to date on the impact of technological coercion on patient behaviour, coercive tactics that place environmental controls around patient behaviour have been linked to adverse outcomes. Research indicates that self‐harm rates on inpatient wards rise when patients feel the nurses are controlling them or limiting their freedom (James et al . 2012 ). Interviews with prisoners indicate that BWCs create feelings of powerlessness and intrusion (Pope et al . 2020 ), and similar sentiments are echoed by inpatient service users (Hardy et al . 2017 ).

If BWCs do reduce patient violence in inpatient mental health settings, they could potentially allow mental health staff to engage in more directed therapeutic work with the knowledge that they are less likely to require strong coercive techniques, such as seclusion or restraint (Stewart et al . 2010 ). However, even well intentioned safety measures such as door‐locking can create feelings of imprisonment and resentment which impair attempts at creating a therapeutic environment (Muir‐Cochrane et al . 2012 ). It is important for researchers, policy makers, healthcare professionals, and indeed patients themselves, to ask whether technological coercion is better for patients than the evidence‐based measures already available, such as the well‐established Safewards model (Bowers 2014 ).

Discussions around the risk of BWCs exacerbating symptoms and compromising care in mental health settings have begun to emerge (Olive 2019 ; Royal College of Nursing 2018a ), but there is a considerable lack of research into patient perspectives on BWCs. While officer perspectives on BWCs have been researched in some depth, research on citizen and prisoner perspectives is far less robust and consequently policy makers must acknowledge the bias in the current evidence base when considering the implications for mental health services.

Limitations & future directions

This review is the largest, and only, study of its type to date. The synthesis of evidence across the public sector has provided a wide overview of the uses and effects of BWCs and examines the minimal evidence for the use of this technology in a mental health setting. This review has identified poor methodological rigour in the current BWC evidence base and a lack of generalisability to mental health settings. Future research must explicitly examine the impact of BWCs in mental health settings, taking both patient and staff perspectives into account. There is also need for a wider consideration of the consequences of using such technologies and the consequences of implementing significant healthcare intervention within the NHS without prior rigorous research. Specifically, the lack of financial analysis is an imperative next step for researchers to address in order to establish whether BWCs will provide a cost‐effective use of funding to improve mental health service delivery.

This review only included studies with public services actively utilising BWC technology. During the initial screening process, it was evident that many studies examined BWCs beyond the scope of this review. For example, several law enforcement studies which did not meet the inclusion criteria for this review relied on archival footage, which may provide a different insight into BWC outcomes in police settings. As the evidence base grows and follow‐up periods increase, it will be beneficial for researchers to compare pre/post data and consider possible therapeutic outcomes and unintended consequences in more depth. Additionally, future research into BWCs in mental health settings should prioritise co‐production and patient involvement, as this review highlighted a notable lack of consideration for patient and citizen perspectives in research.

This review established that there is a poor evidence base for the use of BWCs in public sector services. BWCs in law enforcement is a well‐established practice with limited empirical support, and the increase in the use of this technology across other public services, such as healthcare, is still under‐researched. The use of poor‐quality law enforcement data to support the application of this technology in mental healthcare settings raises concerns around power and coercion in mental health nursing. This review highlights questions around the positive and negative impacts of BWCs in inpatient mental health settings have yet to be answered.

RELEVANCE FOR CLINICAL PRACTICE

BWCs are actively being rolled out in mental health trusts across the UK without a substantial evidence base to support their use. With this growing implementation, it is surprising that there is such a dearth of research that considers patient voices. The current review highlights the need to explore the experiences and perspectives of patients, mental health staff, and senior management to better understand the motivations, concerns, barriers, impact, and unintended/adverse consequences of BWC use in mental health settings. This research will help the mental health sector gain a greater understanding of this complex issue to better inform policies and practice.

Funding information

No external funding.

Acknowledgements

All authors have read and approved the manuscript. Authors KW, JE, and UF conducted the searches and data extraction. ME also assisted with data extraction. JE drafted the initial paper, and KW revised it for submission. AS resolved any disputes. All authors contributed to editing.

Appendix A. Summary of studies included in review

Declaration of Conflict of interest : None.

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July 21, 2021

Research: Body cameras close the racial gap in police misconduct investigations

by Jennifer French Giarratano, Georgia State University

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Video footage captured by police-worn body cameras is closing racial gaps in police misconduct investigations according to research by criminologists and economists at Georgia State, American and Stockton universities.

"Police bodycams—when they're turned on—even the playing field by introducing objective evidence into the investigation of complaints about police behavior," Georgia State University professor Volkan Topalli said. "This technology now helps eliminate ambiguities and conflicting accounts among Black and Hispanic complainants more often than whites, narrowing proven disparities among racial lines."

Topalli and his co-authors studied citizen complaint data from the Chicago Police Department (PD) and Civilian Office of Police Accountability filed between 2012 and 2020. Chicago PD, the second largest municipal law enforcement agency in the U.S., staggered bodycam deployment among its 22 police districts over the period. The authors examined this deployment to determine whether evidence from bodycam technology altered the outcomes of misconduct complaints and whether it led to different outcomes based on the race of the complainants.

Before the adoption of police bodycams, evidence suggests the Chicago PD citizen complaint investigations process produced biased outcomes. Of the more than 111,000 civilian complaints against Chicago PD officers between January 2000 and June 2015, only 2.1 percent were "sustained," meaning the complainant's allegation was supported by evidence indicating the incident occurred and the officer's conduct was improper. From 2010-2015, only 1.6 percent of Black residents' complaints were sustained versus an overall rate of 2.6 percent, suggesting an imbalance of outcomes along racial lines.

The deployment of bodycams during this period was associated with a 9.9-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of a sustained finding, nearly two-thirds more frequently than the mean for non-bodycam incidents.

Bodycam deployment also led to a 16.2 percent decrease in the dismissal of investigations due to insufficient evidence (not sustained) and a significant increase in disciplinary actions against police officers with sufficient evidence to sanction their misconduct. The racial disparities in not sustained findings largely disappeared.

"Police bodycams provide information that changes the outcome of complaint investigations," Topalli said. "Although cultural acceptance of this technology as 'business as usual' may take some time and effort, its adoption helps establish an important accountability process for law enforcement and can improve citizen trust in the police, particularly in communities that have experienced biased oversight."

Suat Cubukeu and Erdal Tekin at American University and Nusret M. Sahin at Stockton University are co-authors of the study, "Body-Worn Cameras and Adjudication of Citizen Complaints of Police Misconduct," published as National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) Working Paper No. 29019.

Provided by Georgia State University

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7 findings from first-ever study on body cameras

For 12 months, rialto’s 54 frontline officers all were assigned randomly to wear or not wear taser hd axon flex video/audio cameras attached to their clothing during each of their 12-hr. shifts.

A groundbreaking study of body-worn cameras first reported by Force Science News 18 months ago has now been published in a professional journal, with additional commentary. An abstract of the research can be accessed free of charge, with an option to buy the full study, by clicking here , which will take you to the website for the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. The essence of the report is also available free by clicking here .

The research comprised a yearlong experiment conducted at the Rialto (CA) PD, a mid-size agency that serves a population of 100,000 residents, more than half of them minorities. The city, home to a number of large-scale hard goods warehousers and shippers, experiences an above-average crime rate, with a homicide rate that is nearly 50 percent higher than the US average. More than 20 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

For 12 months, Rialto’s 54 frontline officers all were assigned randomly to wear or not wear TASER HD Axon Flex video/audio cameras attached to their clothing during each of their 12-hr. shifts. On shifts when they wore cameras, “the officers were instructed to have them on during every encounter with members of the public, with the exception of incidents involving sexual assaults of minors and dealing with police informants,” the study team explains.

Nearly 1,000 shifts around the clock were monitored in all, and all participating officers experienced both camera and non-camera working conditions.

Recorded video was automatically uploaded at the end of each tour, and the research team had full access to this “rich” database in what they claim was the world’s first test of the effect of body cams on police-subject interactions.

The results were dramatic.

For three years prior to the experiment, the PD posted roughly 65 use-of-force incidents per year. (UOF was considered “physical force that is greater than basic control or ‘compliance holds’ “and included OC spray, baton strikes, TASER deployment, K9 bites, or firearms.) In the year before the experiment, 24 citizens lodged grievances against officers.

During the experimental period, the UOF rate dropped significantly, to 25 incidents total, a reduction of 58 percent to 64 percent compared to previous years. Only eight of the incidents occurred when officers were wearing body cams. In other words, during the test period the likelihood of force being used was roughly doubled when cameras were not deployed.

Citizen complaints plunged to a total of three (3), a precipitous drop of 88 percent.

The research team’s commentary on these findings includes these observations:

• Extensive research shows that people tend to “adhere to social norms and change their conduct” once they’re aware that their behavior is being observed. Under camera scrutiny, they “become more conscious that unacceptable behaviors will be captured on film,” with detection “perceived as certain.” Body-worn cameras (BWCs) convey a “straight-forward, pragmatic message: ‘You are being watched, videotaped, and expected to follow the rules’.”

• This “self-awareness effect” caused by the camera’s “neutral third eye” affects the psyches of officers and suspects alike, prompting suspects to “cool down” aggressive actions and deterring officers “from reacting with excessive or unnecessary force.” Neither party wants to “get caught engaging in socially undesirable behavior that may have costly consequences.”

• “[E]ven police subcultures of acceptable but illegitimate force responses are likely to be affected by the cameras,” the researchers write, “because misconduct cannot go undetected.... Police-public encounters become more transparent and the curtain of silence that protects misconduct can more easily be unveiled....” On the other hand, cameras may “force” officers “to endure stressful situations and arguably accept some forms of disrespect that without the cameras [they] would normally not.”

• The study revealed an interesting “spillover effect.” Overall, the use of force and citizen complaints declined both when cameras were in use and when they weren’t, the researchers point out. They speculate that this may reflect a conscious effort by officers without cameras during a given shift to competitively improve their behavior to favorably match that of fellow officers who had the “advantage” of wearing a body cam.

• There’s a “training potential” in body-worn videos. The footage “can be used to ‘coach’ officers about how they conduct themselves,” the researchers write. “We envision future police training to incorporate one-on-one sessions in which junior officers train with their own footage...and potentially improve their demeanor when dealing with suspects, victims, and witnesses.”

• While the researchers consider a cost/benefit analysis to favor BWCs, they acknowledge that one “price” is presently unclear: “What are the direct and indirect costs of storing, sharing, and managing digital evidence?” As the “velocity and volume of data” grow exponentially over time, “user licenses, storage space, security costs, maintenance, and system upgrades can potentially translate into billions of dollars worldwide.”

• However, “the cost of not having video footage may have direct implications on decisions to prosecute or on criminal proceedings more generally.” Historically, testimony by officers in court against defendants has “carried tremendous weight.... Yet it is very likely that defense attorneys, judges, the jury, and the public as a whole would steadfastly assign more weight to digital evidence.... [W]ould district attorneys...be reluctant to prosecute when there is no evidence from body-worn devices to corroborate the testimony of the officer... Would cases be dismissed if arrests or stop-and-frisk were conducted without a body-worn video, given the possible violation of human rights? Will officers’ credibility in court be assumed to be violated when police-public encounters are not recorded?”

Time will tell whether such potential consequences will prove to offset the benefits of BWCs, the researchers say.

Meantime, “mistrust and a lack of confidence...already characterize some communities’ perception of their local police,” they note. “It may take just one or a handful of cases” of unnecessary or excessive force to further “damage the legitimacy of the police” and inflict “tremendous costs” on agencies already struggling financially “in an era of austerity....

“Completely eradicating illegitimate use-of-force is unlikely, as some force will always be required against some offenders in some circumstances. Any approach should still allow for legitimate use-of-force...but for all other circumstances, a reductionist approach should aim to dramatically ‘cool down’ encounters.”

Based on the findings of this study, which the research team urges other departments to replicate in their own jurisdictions, BWCs appear to be a potentially valuable tool in achieving that goal, while “enhancing police legitimacy and transparency, increasing prosecution rates, and improving evidence capture....”

The researchers authoring the study are William Farrar, chief of Rialto PD, and Drs. Barak Ariel and Alex Sutherland of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge in England.

Our original report on this research, based in large part on an interview with Chief Farrar, who directly managed the experiment, can be accessed by clicking here or by typing the following address for the Force Science News Archives in to your browser here .

Force Science Institute

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As Body Cameras Become Commonplace, a Debate Over When to Release the Footage

The question of timing has become an unsettled new frontier of policymaking as the use of police body cameras is more the rule rather than the exception.

research about body cameras

By Richard Fausset and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Ma’Khia Bryant had been dead only a few hours when the authorities in Columbus, Ohio, released body camera footage from the police officer who had shot and killed her.

Andrew Brown Jr. was killed by sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City, N.C., nearly two weeks ago, and it could be many more weeks — or even months — before video of his death is publicly shown.

As body-worn cameras have become more commonplace, and public pressure on officials to take police accountability more seriously has mounted, so too have demands to quickly release the footage of violent or fatal encounters between law enforcement officers and citizens. A video can mean the difference between drawing attention or dying in obscurity.

But it is not always that easy. While more police chiefs and mayors have recently made ad hoc decisions to quickly release videos of high-profile incidents, activists and lawmakers in some states are pushing for faster public access. That has made the question of timing an important and unsettled new frontier of policymaking as the use of body cameras among law enforcement in the United States becomes the rule rather than the exception.

As of 2018, at least 23 states and the District of Columbia had passed laws related to the public disclosure of body-worn camera footage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures , and many states are considering measures this year. Few states consider body-worn camera footage exempt from public records requests, although most states have passed various exemptions associated with the disclosure — from who is allowed to view the video to the time frame in which it must be released.

In Ohio, body-worn camera footage is generally subject to public disclosure, and any authority figure can choose to release it at any time. In North Carolina, a court order is required, even if the person requesting the footage is the head of a law enforcement agency.

By first requiring a judge’s approval to release body camera footage through blanketed, statewide legislation, North Carolina is an outlier, said Daniel Lawrence, a researcher at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center in Washington, D.C. But it is not the only state where recordings are not considered open records under the law. South Carolina and Kansas treat such videos similarly — a troubling fact for civil libertarians and proponents of open government.

“The beneficiary of the body camera video is intended to be the public at large,” said Chad A. Marlow, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “From that philosophical position, the idea then is that to promote transparency the public should have a right to view the footage.”

But even in states that require public disclosure, it is often up to the police or elected officials to decide how quickly that happens.

The day after Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer at a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on April 11, in the midst of the murder trial against the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, officials opted to quickly release some of the body camera footage. The video shows the officer, who has since resigned and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter , shouting, “Taser,” suggesting she mistook one weapon for another. The swift release , which was not required by law, came after a night of particularly intense demonstrations, in which the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

When Ms. Bryant, 16, who according to the body-camera video was wielding a knife and had threatened two girls, was fatally shot by an officer in Columbus on April 20, the Columbus Division of Police released video about five hours later, as protesters gathered at the scene.

“We wanted to get that out as soon as possible,” said Michael Woods, the interim police chief of Columbus, even though he was not required by law to quickly do so.

Before North Carolina passed its body-camera law in 2016, law enforcement agencies in the state operated by their own rules. But the killing of Mr. Brown, who like Ms. Bryant and Mr. Wright was Black, has renewed calls to change the law.

“I think it should be a public record,” said Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat of North Carolina, referring to the body camera footage. “And there should be a date certain by when the public knows that they will have access to it. And the burden should be on law enforcement to go to the court to seek a temporary stay for investigative purposes.”

This week, State Representative Amos Quick, a Democrat, filed a bill in the state House that would force law enforcement agencies to release body camera recordings within 48 hours, and give police departments a chance to go before a judge to argue that the release would, among other things, jeopardize someone’s safety or hinder an investigation. (A similar bill is pending in the State Senate.)

As of 2016, about 80 percent of all police departments with more than 500 officers had implemented body cameras, according to Justice Department data , most after a spate of police killings and in-custody deaths of Black people.

When agencies first began using body cameras, there was not a big push for transparency so it was easier to keep the footage “under wraps,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a policing expert and professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina.

Research on the effects of body cameras so far has come to varied conclusions.

In a yearlong study in New York , research found that body-worn cameras led to a higher reporting of questionable stops that have fueled accusations of racial bias and harassment against the New York Police Department, enabling more transparency into police activity. The research also found that the body cameras had no significant effect on arrests or officers’ use of force.

Another study of more than 2,000 police officers in Washington said that body-worn cameras had little effect on police behavior.

The fate of the pending measure in North Carolina is uncertain in the Republican-controlled state legislature. But a number of other states, among them California, Colorado, Utah and Wisconsin, changed their laws to favor greater disclosure after 2014, when a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, unleashing waves of protest.

The episode was not captured by a body camera, because the officer, Darren Wilson, did not have one. Mr. Wilson was investigated for the slaying, but not charged.

Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington who has studied body-camera policies, said that a number of states still had problematic laws on the books that overextend exceptions to public disclosure. Louisiana, for example, gives too much power to the police to withhold footage for privacy reasons, she said. And Oregon exempts footage from public disclosure unless it is in the “public interest” — a “squishy, amorphous” standard, Ms. Fan said.

At the same time, some big cities have been moving to set new standards on the release of body-camera videos.

Since 2018, Los Angeles Police officers have been required, with some exceptions, to release within 45 days footage of “critical incidents,” including those in which the use of force resulted in death. A state law that went into effect the following year required all California departments to release such footage within the same required time frame.

Last summer, in the aftermath of the killing of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, New York City began requiring similar disclosure of videos within 30 days; and Washington, D.C., set the deadline at five days.

In Philadelphia, officials publicly released body-camera footage in October — the first time the city’s police department had ever done so — nine days after two police officers fatally shot a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr. , who officials said was holding a knife and had a history of mental illness.

Chicago, too, has had a significant change in the way it manages police video since its handling of the case of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager who was shot by a white officer 16 times in October 2014. It took more than a year for the dashboard camera video of that shooting to be released, a delay caused by city officials who insisted that the video was part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The officer became the city’s first patrolman in almost 50 years to be convicted of murder and was sentenced to just shy of seven years in prison.

These days in Chicago, the footage comes faster. When Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old from the West Side, was fatally shot by a police officer in March, an independent city agency that investigates shootings initially resisted the release of the video, citing his age. But the agency eventually released the footage 17 days after his death. And it took about four weeks for the city to make public video of the March 31 police shooting of Anthony Alvarez, a 22-year-old who was fleeing officers while holding a gun.

Concerns that an immediate release of footage might hinder an investigation or threaten the safety or privacy rights of officers or others remain. In North Carolina, Judge Jeff Foster cited these concerns in delaying the release of footage of Mr. Brown's death. And in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department’s union tried, unsuccessfully, to block part of an emergency legislation on the grounds that it put officers at risk.

But police departments have other things to worry about these days as well, said Donald M. Craven, a media lawyer in Springfield, Ill. Body-camera footage is not always the only video evidence of excessive force or killings.

“If Minnesota taught us anything, it’s not just the police officers who have cameras,” he said, referring to the video taken by a teenage girl of Mr. Floyd beneath the knee of a white police officer, pleading for his life. “To some extent, there’s additional pressure on police departments to release the video that they have before they get hit with the video they don’t have.”

Julie Bosman , Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Will Wright contributed reporting.

Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice. He previously worked at The Los Angeles Times, including as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City. More about Richard Fausset

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio was a national reporting fellow. She previously reported in her hometown of Los Angeles, as well as in New York City and Washington. More about Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

research about body cameras

Behind The Body Camera: The Ethics, Adoption And Impact Of Recording Police Interactions

research about body cameras

As public interest in fatal police use of force continues, a growing number of police departments have begun using body-worn cameras as tools for transparency and documentation of civilian interactions.

And while recent research shows their impact might not be having the expected effect, according to a 2016 Department of Justice report, 47% of law enforcement agencies had acquired body cameras. Some states, like Connecticut, offer grant-funding to departments looking to purchase cameras for their officers.

The Connecticut program began in 2016 but since then, only 36 of the state’s 97 departments have taken advantage of the funding. Recently, using a combination of state grant money and city funding, the Hartford Police Department began rolling out body cams to hundreds of officers after wrapping up a pilot program in February. The department is one of the largest in the state of Connecticut.

“I think it provides a level of transparency and accountability to not only our police department in the city but the community at large,” said Hartford Police Department Captain Jeffrey Rousseau. “Moving forward with this, it provides protection to our officers, it provides accurate depictions of the incidents and I think it’s also a win-win for everyone involved, not only in our police department but also stakeholders — the community, the city.”

Officer Noelia Resto has been with Hartford police for 18 years. She was one of 40 officers to receive her camera during the pilot program in February. Since then, she has recorded more than 300 videos.

“I think the amount of time that I’m using it now, it’s more like second nature,” Resto said. “It’s like alright — I’m turning my lights on, I’m turning [my camera] on. So it’s a part of my process of how I approach the call. I think with time, if everyone gets the same opportunity, it’ll be easier to use.”

As an officer within the traffic division, traffic stops are her most common interaction with civilians.

“I try that every time I have a stop, as soon as I safely stop, I turn it on,” Resto said. “Once I’m done with the stop, I go ahead and turn it off.”

Officer Noelia Resto has worked for the Hartford Police Department for 18 years. She received her body cam during the department's pilot program that started in February.

The camera has a large button in the center that officers press to turn it on, off and place it on standby. It beeps each time the mode is changed. Resto has hers configured to vibrate every two minutes while it’s on, even if it’s not recording.

She also uses the accompanying Axon View smartphone app to categorize each video as one of 21 different types of interaction, like traffic stops, arrests, routine service and use of force . Each category details how long the video must be stored, from 90 days, a few years or until manually deleted. Only system administrators, not officers, supervisors or detectives, can delete videos.

Captain Rousseau said the pilot program and on-going trainings aim to ensure officers know how to properly wear and use the cameras.

“Some of officers have worked here 15, 20 years out in the field and they’ve never had this little block attached to their chests that’s kind of weighing them down a little bit,” Rousseau said. “So it took some time to get used to as far as getting the mindset of an incident happens or seeing something that needs to be recorded.”

The Evolution From Tasers To Body Cameras

Axon, the company that supplies more than 60% of Connecticut’s body cameras, has also supplied over 200,000 cameras across more than 1,500 law enforcement agencies throughout the country. It’s currently the largest provider of body cams in the country.

The company started out making tasers in 1993 as AIR TASER, Inc. then TASER International, Inc. The company has faced scrutiny and lawsuits due to the number of deaths associated with the electric stun guns.

The company then rebranded as Axon in 2017, becoming a leader in body camera sales. Jason Hartford, Axon’s Vice President of Connected Devices, said at first, law enforcement agencies were “very slow” to adopt the technology.

“As agencies started to see benefits, if they had situations in which their officers were in critical incidents and the public were in critical incidents then these body-worn cameras as evidence started to level the playing field,” Hartford said. “[They] started to show how police officers were working with the public and how the public was responding.”

A year later in 2018, Axon created an ethics board that comprises a combination of law enforcement and former law enforcement officers, researchers, public policy experts and scientists, known as the Axon AI and Policing Technology Ethics Board. According to Axon’s website, the board’s charge is to provide the company with “guidance about the responsible development of police technologies and of AI features in our products and services, which includes considering when to use and not use AI.”

The Axon Body 2 camera, released in 2017, can be programmed to store up to two minutes of recall footage, which is what's captured before the officer physically presses record. The Hartford Police Department opted to program their cameras for 60 seconds.

According to Hartford, the Ethics Board is part of Axon’s effort to keep law enforcement and the community “safe, efficient and effective” when using their product.

“We really have the impetus to be above board, allow a public forum and a group of people to challenge the way that we approach technology,” Hartford said, “to challenge our thinking so that we made sure we were using technology in a responsible way.”

Moji Solgi, Axon’s Vice President of AI & Machine Learning, says that it’s important for companies who develop technology that impacts people’s lives to have an “independent voice and to think about ethical and privacy and security aspects.”

“Technology is generally powerful and the way it affects communities usually is something that requires a lot of due diligence and thinking and seeing around the corner and the known and unknown consequences,” Solgi said. “People who develop the technology day-to-day normally don’t have enough time to sit back and think about these long-term effects. With that power comes the burden of responsibility.”

In April 2018, the same month that Axon announced its Ethics Board, a group of more than 40 civil rights and civil liberties groups including the ACLU and NAACP, wrote a joint letter to Axon asking to get involved with the board. The letter included detailed recommendations on areas of concern for the groups.

“We wanted to make clear, at the outset of the Ethics Board’s work, that there are red lines that Axon simply must not cross, such as building real-time face recognition into body-worn cameras,” said Harlan Yu, executive director of Upturn , one of the organizations that co-signed the letter.

Prior to sending the letter, Axon invited Yu to be on the board, but he declined. Yu said that Axon did not respond or engage the groups after they sent the letter. He’s critical of what he says is the company’s tendency to engage with law enforcement but not civil rights and community groups regarding their needs and concerns.

Yu says more people who are subjected to high police presence in their communities need to have a seat at the table.

“The bottom line is that deliberations about the ethics of Axon’s products need to center the voices of those who are most impacted by these technologies,” Yu said. “In this case, those who live in the most heavily policed communities and those who have directly experienced law enforcement harm and violence.”

In a June 2019 response to Guns & America, an Axon representative said, “We did not receive any specific requests for comment from any of the groups involved with drafting or signing [the letter].”

In 2018 however, Axon released the following statement to the media:

“We received the letter from various groups and appreciate their interest. We will consider their input and also are discussing means of increasing participation and constructive input from other stakeholders as we move forward with this first-of-its-kind board. We plan to be as transparent as possible. We will issue the outcomes from the first meeting in the coming weeks, and plan to do so on a continuing basis, as well as releasing occasional white papers on our discussions.”

The Fight Over Footage

The Axon Ethics Board published its first report in June 2019, along with a response from the company. Barry Friedman serves on the Ethics Board and is the faculty director of the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law.

The Policing Project has been tapped by the New York Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department and others to evaluate how officers are using body cameras and how communities perceive their efficacy and use.

Formed in 2018, the Policing Project works with “communities and police departments across the country to ensure that police department policies and practices are transparent, efficacious, and adopted with public input.” The Los Angeles Police Commission specifically asked for help collecting public input on a policy on when to release video after an officer-involved shooting.

Friedman is concerned that body cameras are “becoming a surveillance tool in the hands of police.”

“There are many jurisdictions in which the policies regarding body cams don’t allow for or don’t provide disclosure of the footage at times when it might be appropriate for accountability,” Friedman said, “but at the same time that footage is being used [by police] to prosecute criminal offenses.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legislated how body-worn camera data is addressed under open record laws.

Six states allow body camera footage to be a part of public record — Connecticut, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Kentucky.

With some exceptions, laws in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina generally exclude body-worn camera footage from open record requests.

“What’s needed are policies in place to ensure that the video is reviewed at appropriate times, either because there’s a citizen complaint or for training purposes,” Friedman said, “or if unfortunately, there’s been a difficult incident such as an officer-involved shooting.”

Public input and stakeholders, Friedman says, are critical, not just when something goes wrong.

“The public needs to have a voice in what those policies are,” Friedman said. “The importance of having a policy up front that makes sure that cameras are used in ways that meets the purpose for which they were purchased.”

Friedman says that in the future, he believes body cams will become “the norm” for law enforcement.

Creating ‘Muscle Memory’ Among Officers

Police in Milford, Connecticut, a shoreline city with a population of around 55,000, have had body cameras since 2011 , before the state-funded program existed. Milford Chief Keith Mello said that at the time, the department was concerned with a police-civilian interaction that was captured through a series of cell phone videos.

“When we got these cell phone videos, they were just small snippets and they would always show you only the ugly parts of the use of force,” Mello said. “Let’s face it — any use of force is ugly and it’s not something that people are comfortable watching and certainly that’s understandable.”

Mello, who’s also the chairman of the state’s Police Officers Standards and Training Council and incoming president of Connecticut’s Police Chief Association, said the incident changed his perspective and lead him to want to be able to see what happened during the entire incident, not just clips, especially when use of force is involved.

“It shows the efforts that we go through to try to provide quality service and when it comes to the use of force efforts that we go through to avoid using force, to de-escalate that force,” Mello said. “And just as important is when that doesn’t happen and when there’s an overreaction or there’s a mistake or there’s simply bad behavior on the part of law enforcement video helps determine that as well.”

Mello said they’re working with the departments across the state that have body cameras to “create a muscle memory” for turning on the body cameras.

“What concerns us is that the public sometimes may assume that we didn’t turn it on intentionally, and I find that to be less the case,” Mello said of officers new to wearing the cameras. “it’s more just human behavior, they just plain forget.”

“What’s important especially with local law enforcement when you have over a hundred police departments, is we want consistency,” Mello said. “We want to make sure the public has a right to expect consistency because law enforcement knows no boundaries, and so they should have a right to expect that the police department they live in adheres to the same principles as the police department where they work, where they visit.”

According to Mello, body cameras can help police officers do their jobs better, document evidence and offer a greater level of transparency to the public.

While some studies of police departments across the country have reported a decrease in the use of force and positive results from adopting body cams, like in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Rialto, California, a 2019 report from George Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy contends that, “Although officers and citizens are generally supportive of body-worn camera use, body-worn cameras have not had statistically consistent effects on most measures of officer and citizen behavior or citizens’ view of police.”

The report examined 70 published studies of body-worn cameras (BWCs,) with 52 originating from the United States.

The studies were broken down into six categories:

  • The impact of BWC on officer behavior
  • Officer attitudes about BWCs
  • The impact of BWCs on citizen behavior
  • Citizen and community attitudes about BWCs
  • The impact of BWCs on criminal investigations
  • The impact of BWCs on law enforcement organizations

The researchers suggest that the “rapid adoption” of BWCs across the country “has been propelled by highly publicized events in this decade involving (often) White police officers killing (often) unarmed Black individuals.” They trace the shift to Trayvon Martin’s shooting death in 2012 , followed by Michael Brown’s in 2014 and Freddie Gray’s in 2015, though Martin was not killed by a police officer. Those incidents, and others, were captured on civilian cell phone camera videos. According to the report, researchers believe that there’s “likely to be a growing expecting among the public that adopting BWCs is a marker of a responsive, transparent and legitimate police organization.”

The Cost Of The Cloud

One of the biggest challenges facing departments seeking to make body cams a part their policing is the cost. While Connecticut’s grant program funds the initial purchase of the cameras and a year’s worth of data storage, it falls on each department to keep financing the program and its related software. The online cloud storage for Hartford’s 325 camera costs an additional $237,000. Annually per camera, it costs $240 for a warranty, $250 for cloud storage and $180 for access to Axon Evidence, the cloud-based device data management system. In 2015, the Department of Justice invested $20 million in body-worn cameras for departments across the country

research about body cameras

The Washington Post reported that some police departments in small jurisdictions have ended their body camera programs because of the cost and cited financial and workload strains on prosecutors. A 2016 DOJ report stated that for agencies that had not purchased body cameras, 77% gave cost as the reason why they hadn’t acquired them.

In the fall of 2018, the Policing Project hosted a cost-benefit analysis conference that evaluates policing from beyond a literal dollars and cents standpoint. It included a panel-discussion on body cameras.

“Anytime you evaluate a tool that the police are using or a policy, you have to take into account not only how much the camera costs but also intangible costs and benefits,” Friedman said, the faculty director of NYU’s Policing Project. “Cameras might be expensive but they might increase community trust. It’s easier to put a value on the cost of a camera instead of community trust.”

The Problem With The Federal Body Cam Ban

According to The Washington Post, federal agents do not wear body cameras and prohibit local officers from wearing them during joint operations. Atlanta police chief Erika Shields removed Atlanta officers working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service because of the ban.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, officers were removed from a federal marshals’ task force for continuing to wear their body cameras. Officers with Washington D.C.’s Metro Police Department comply with the federal rule when working on federal task forces.

Two members of the U.S. House recently reintroduced a bill that would require federal uniformed officers to wear body cameras that did not get a 2018 Congressional hearing.

The Washington Post reported that a Justice Department official said its body camera ban is related to “safety and security concerns, such as protecting sensitive or tactical methods used in arresting violent fugitives or conducting covert investigations.”

“It really hurts our standing with the community when we don’t have body-worn cameras,” said Art Acevedo, Houston’s police chief and the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Soon, Acevedo says they plan to change department policy so that officers on SWAT teams will wear body cameras as they execute search and arrest warrants. He noted the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man in Memphis by U.S. Marshal deputies serving an arrest warrant as a concerning incident.

“We need our federal partners to come into the 21st Century and and agree that transparency builds trust and trust is a win for everybody,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo says they began conversations with the Department of Justice more than a year ago with then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and have continued with current Attorney General William Barr regarding the federal ban on body cameras in the “interest of transparency accountability and and in an effort to try to build legitimacy across the nation.”

“You can’t be with the mindset, do as we say and not as we do,” Acevedo said. “We can’t have the federal government investing hundreds of millions of the taxpayer dollars across the nation and then turn around and say, ‘Well, wait a minute, it’s good for the locals, but it’s not good for us.’ They know that this is a huge concern, we put it on their radar.”

In 2016, the Department of Justice surveyed nearly 4,000 law enforcement agencies across the country and found the following as the top reasons for acquiring body cams:

  • To improve officer safety  
  • To improve evidence quality  
  • To reduce civilian complaints  
  • To reduce agency liability  
  • To improve accountability  
  • To make cases more prosecutable  
  • To improve officer professionalism  
  • To improve community perceptions  
  • To reduce use of force

For local and state law enforcement agencies that actively use body cameras, the federal government’s ban is both a contradiction and a liability for their officers involved in task forces and joint investigations. Acevedo says that if the DOJ doesn’t change their stance by the end of the summer, he plans to take action.

“The president himself has made combating violent crime one of the highest priorities for his federal agencies,” Acevedo said. “Ultimately if [the] DOJ doesn’t come up with an agreement, we’ll probably end up calling for the president to issue an executive order and make them do the right thing.”

Updated 7/1/2019: This story has been updated to include the release of the Axon Ethics Board’s first report .

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research about body cameras

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New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson reiterated during a press conference on November 29th, 2022 following the arrests of the five officers involved in the incident that resulted in Randy Cox being paralyzed in police custody, that the internal investigation into the officers' actions would resume and that any resulting punishment would be separate from criminal proceedings .

KPBS

Study: Body-Worn Camera Research Shows Drop In Police Use Of Force

Police officer David Moore is pictured wearing a body camera in Ipswich, Mass., on Dec. 1, 2020. The city was among 25 statewide awarded grants to purchase body-worn cameras for videotaping interactions with the public. A new study says the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras.

One of the most powerful examples of the significance of police body-worn cameras played out in a Minneapolis court room during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. The video collected from the body worn cameras of the police officers involved in Floyd's arrest showed his death from a variety of angles and prosecution and defense attorneys used the video extensively as they argued the case.

Across the country, police departments are increasingly using body-worn cameras to better monitor what officers are doing out in the field with the hope that they will reduce the prevalence of misconduct and improve fairness in policing. Still, there's been a lot of uncertainty over whether the technology is actually helpful. In addition, local governments and police departments that have not integrated the technology as part of their policing practice often cite cost as a barrier.

Now, in one of the latest studies about the equipment, a team of public safety experts and world economists say body-worn cameras are both beneficial and cost effective. They outline their reasoning in a research paper released recently by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice's Task Force on Policing. The report is an update of a variety of studies of body-worn cameras and it also compares the cost of the technology to the dollar value of the benefits that may come as a result.

Professor Jens Ludwig, head of the Crime Lab, says the findings show the key benefit of body-worn cameras is the reduced use of police force. For example, among the police departments studied, complaints against police dropped by 17% and the use of force by police, during fatal and non-fatal encounters, fell by nearly 10%.

"That's hopeful but not a panacea," Ludwig says. "Body-worn cameras are a useful part of the response but not a solution by themselves. Body-worn cameras are not going to solve the problem of the enormous gap we see in police use of force in the U.S. against Black versus white Americans. "

Even so, New York University Professor Morgan Williams Jr. says "integrating the technology into policing practices can be an important step towards making policing fairer and more accountable."

In 2013, about a third of local law enforcement agencies, used some form of body-worn camera technology. By 2016, the number had grown to nearly 50%. While law enforcement often cites finances as a barrier to adopting body-worn cameras, the researchers say the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras.

The pricetag for police bodycams can be several thousands of dollars per officer since costs include purchasing and maintaining the equipment, paying for storing the enormous amount of information the cameras can collect, and training officers. On the other hand, the study asserts that the dollar value of body-worn camera benefits — the estimated savings generated by a reduction of citizen complaints and averted use of force incidents — along with the cost reductions that could come from fewer investigations, is significant. The study estimates the ratio of the value of the benefits compared to the cost of body-worn cameras at 5 to 1 and well above an estimated 2 to 1 cost-benefit of hiring more police.

"If you are a local government looking at adopting the cost, from your narrow green eyeshade bottom line, the technology probably pays for itself," Ludwig says. "And the benefits to the public are a huge win and easily outweigh the cost."

The study notes, however, that the research developed so far about body-worn cameras is limited since results are based on data from police departments that were the first to adopt the new technology. It could also be, says Ludwig, that body-worn cameras and the impact they have on policing will be different as people figure out better ways to use the technology.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Times of San Diego

10 Years after Ferguson, Body-Worn Police Cameras Reduce Use of Force, Foster Transparency

F ifteen years after the first police department in San Diego County experimented with body-worn cameras, and 10 years after protests in Ferguson, Missouri , spurred national interest, the technology has become vital to modern-day law enforcement operations.

In the years since Ferguson, a fierce debate about transparency in law enforcement has led to rapid expansion of the use of body-worn cameras by police and sheriff’s departments. And with this increased use has come unanticipated challenges — determining which videos should be reviewed immediately, followed by the need to securely store millions of clips at increasing cost. 

And now there’s a new challenge — a controversial artificial intelligence program being used to review the mountains of video and audio.

The first cameras worn by police in San Diego County and possibly in the entire country came before Ferguson in 2009. Escondido Police Lt. Craig Miller recalls, “I had bought a little tiny micro action camera that was designed for people to throw on their mountain bike or to film a bungee jump.” The $60 camera impressed his captain, so the department began testing half a dozen cameras.

“Within about three or four weeks, we captured an officer-involved shooting on video, and the department was sold,” Miller said.

Today every police agency in San Diego County uses body-worn cameras except for the California Highway Patrol . The CHP has finished testing them in Stockton and Oakland, and has received the funding needed to roll out body cameras statewide in 2025. 

Currently in San Diego County there are 5,305 law enforcement officers using 4,152 body-worn cameras, costing in excess of $5 million a year. The largest number of cameras are owned by the San Diego Police with 1,863. The smallest number is for the Coronado Police with just 53 cameras — one for each of its officers.

San Diego Police spokesman Lt. Daniel Meyer sums up the current view of most law enforcement, which has come to embrace the cameras.

“Transparency is key to the success of modern-day policing and BWC’s are one of many very important tools in that pursuit, ” Meyer said. “BWC’s hold the public and law enforcement accountable.” He added that the cameras are “vital to modern-day police operations.”

Research on the use of body-worn cameras has grown rapidly, and an April 2023 analysis of 30 studies by different law enforcement agencies found “statistically significant reductions in use of force” in 14 studies and overall “the current body of research suggests that police BWCs can lead to reductions in use of force by police.”

A contributor to that analysis was Dr. Janne Gaub of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who has also studied citizen and officer perceptions and use of force complaints in Tempe, AZ and Spokane, WA.

Gaub noted that at first the “line-level officers were very skeptical of how the camera footage was going to be used by their superiors in terms of are they just going to go on a fishing expedition, trying to find things we’re doing wrong?”

That fear has largely vanished, she said

”As long as there’s not a significant cultural clash there, where they just are very, very skeptical of each other, then officers eventually come around to viewing them as a positive,” Gaub said.

Further research showed the local department’s culture “really makes a huge difference in body cameras’ impact, ranging from the decision to implement, how it’s implemented, the outcomes that departments will experience,” she said, adding that “we saw this a lot with use of force, where some departments saw dramatic declines and use of force, some moderate declines in use support, and some saw no statistically significant difference.”

The National Institute of Justice believes even more research is needed to determine the value of the cameras and the most effective use when deployed . NIJ suggests that in moving forward it would be best “to build in rigorous evaluations as law enforcement agencies expand their use of this technology.”

The latest federal data available shows about 95% of major U.S. police agencies with 500 officers and more have adopted a body-worn camera system. The biggest suppliers of cameras and cloud storage are Axon (formerly Taser International), Motorola and Panasonic. Axon is the hands-down favorite in the San Diego region.

It’s not the cameras themselves but what the cameras yield that is the biggest money maker for the suppliers. This cost is a major issue that initially few in and out of law enforcement considered. Early in the development of the body cameras some police agencies dropped out because of the storage costs.

In time this led to the creation of large, secure cloud storage systems that police agencies use, not only for storage but for sharing their videos with prosecutors and defense attorneys. Initially the storage across the country was free but the industry moved to “monetize their interaction” with law enforcement. For the manufacturers of the camera systems, the storage of the information is their bread and butter, not the cameras, which can cost about $1,000 each.

“Everything that’s recorded on that camera, it has to be treated as evidence,” said University of Arizona professor of criminology Mike White. “So it has to be treated like any other piece of evidence, which means it has to be stored, it has to be stored securely, and then for how long is it going to be stored?”

There is a common misconception about camera use, said former San Diego prosecutor Damon Mosler.

“They weren’t designed to necessarily collect viable evidence,” said Mosler, who is regarded as an expert in their use. That’s because the video captures the scene after the crime has occurred and before an arrest is made. The reality, he said, is “most policing is reactive not proactive.”

Mosler’s perspective is as a deputy district attorney for almost 30 years in San Diego County, where he ended his career by coordinating the development of policies for the cameras’ use in San Diego. Now he consults for all levels of government.

“I would say the public’s perception was that we’re going to see a lot of misconduct on these videos,” he said, adding that has largely not been the case.

White attributed this to “unrealistic expectations” around the arrival of cameras.

“Some people really expected that they were going to be the silver bullet that was going to solve, you know, a century of tension between police and minority communities, that this was going to be it and this was going to be the magic, the magic beans that are going to fix everything,” said White, who in addition to his teaching is also co-director of training and technical assistance for the Department of Justice Body-Worn Camera Policy Program.

The amount of video captured by BWC systems has grown exponentially, said Mosler. There’s not just the video shot by the police officer first on scene but all the other videos shot by arriving units. Then there is security video captured by street cameras and retailers’ security cameras, as well as cellphone video from citizens shooting police actions. Except for the city of New Orleans, no police agency reviews all the videos coming into the system.

Mosler explained that before the cameras, a police misdemeanor case would begin with a written report of 5 or 10 pages, possibly accompanied by some photos associated with it. But now, the written reports remain but accompanied by several hours of video.

More serious cases entail even more video and documentation.

It’s a “vast tsunami of digital evidence,” said Mosler. “There’s a lot of time involved but is it all relevant or useful?”

For example, since 2014, with the inception of the San Diego Police program with Axon cameras, officers have recorded over six million videos according to police records.

California law stipulates that all video for “non-evidentiary incidents” should be stored for 60 days. In situations where force is used, an arrest is made or a complaint filed against an officer or agency, the requirement is two years.

By the time the Oceanside Police Department adopted its current camera system in 2020, the City Council noted in its funding of the program that they didn’t have to buy the system but it has become “an expectation of the community” and is considered a “best practice” for law enforcement.

The agency signed a five-year agreement with Axon. Oceanside paid $1.8 million for 253 cameras, plus costs for storing the video

In comparison San Diego Police just signed off on a new five-year agreement with the city for $12 million for 1,950 cameras.

Contracts reviewed for this article don’t break down the costs for cameras and storage separately; both are sold as a package deal.

Escondido’s Miller said the Axon system “meets all the requirements for secure evidence through the California Justice Information System. It’s all cloud-based. It’s redundant. The system is password protected, and then it’s got multi-factor authentication.”

“Whether it’s a photograph, a video or any other digital evidence,” he said, “we can see exactly who created it, when it was uploaded, who accessed it, who played it, who it was shared with, right. And then it also prohibits or doesn’t allow an officer to manipulate the video; it can’t be deleted off their camera.”

Escondido has 297 cameras now for 148 sworn officers. This includes patrol, traffic and gang enforcement, who get two cameras, as the agency’s officers take their cars home and “we want them armed with a camera at all times,” said Miller. They also provide cameras for patrol technicians and officers who transport prisoners.

Controversy over the use of the artificial intelligence system Truleo to review all police recordings is the next big thing in the debate over body-worn cameras.

All audio from all officers go into the Truleo system daily for analysis and automatic transcription highlighting both bad and good interactions.

“We invested a lot of money in body cameras to improve accountability, and Truleo helps us earn a higher return on that investment for our community,” said one user, Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros.

There appears to be no public interest locally in the system but that may change. Experts we spoke with say Truleo or other AI systems may be slow to gain traction but just like cameras, the interest in the upside might force the acceptance of the new technology.

We asked the San Diego Police Officers Association for their impression of Truleo, union President Jared Wilson said, “While there are many technologies that can assist first responders in their goal of protecting the community, some of these are simply gimmicky products that divert funds away from providing core services. There is no technology that can replace hiring well qualified officers and field supervisors.”

Fifteen years after the first police department in San Diego County experimented with body-worn cameras, and 10 years after protests in Ferguson, Missouri, spurred national interest, the technology has become vital to modern-day law enforcement operations.

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First scientific report shows police body-worn-cameras can prevent unacceptable use-of-force

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Screen capture from a Rialto PD officer's body-worn-camera

As Obama pledges investment in body-worn-camera technology for police officers, researchers say cameras induce ‘self-awareness’ that can prevent unacceptable uses-of-force seen to have tragic consequences in the US over the past year — from New York to Ferguson — but warn that cameras have implications for prosecution and data storage.

An officer is obliged to issue a warning from the start that an encounter is being filmed, impacting the psyche of all involved by conveying a straightforward, pragmatic message: we are all being watched, videotaped and expected to follow the rules Barak Ariel

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology (IoC) have now published the first full scientific study of the landmark crime experiment they conducted on policing with body-worn-cameras in Rialto, California in 2012 — the results of which have been cited by police departments around the world as justification for rolling out this technology.

The experiment showed that evidence capture is just one output of body-worn video, and the technology is perhaps most effective at actually preventing escalation during police-public interactions: whether that’s abusive behaviour towards police or unnecessary use-of-force by police. The researchers say the knowledge that events are being recorded creates “self-awareness” in all participants during police interactions. This is the critical component that turns body-worn video into a ‘preventative treatment’: causing individuals to modify their behaviour in response to an awareness of ‘third-party’ surveillance by cameras acting as a proxy for legal courts — as well as courts of public opinion — should unacceptable behaviour take place.

During the 12-month Rialto experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87% against the previous year’s figures.     However, the research team caution that the Rialto experiment is only the first step on a long road of evidence-gathering, and that more needs to be known about the impact of body-worn cameras in policing before departments are “steamrolled” into adopting the technology — with vital questions remaining about how normalising  the provision of digital video as evidence will affect prosecution expectations, as well as the storage technology and policies that will be required for the enormous amount of data captured.    

President Obama recently promised to spend $263m of federal funds on body-worn-video to try and stem the haemorrhaging legitimacy of US police forces among communities across the United States after the killing of several unarmed black men by police caused nationwide anguish, igniting waves of protest.

But some in the US question the merit of camera technology given that the officer responsible for killing Eric Garner — a 43-year-old black man suffocated during arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes — was acquitted by a grand jury despite the fact that a bystander filmed the altercation on a mobile phone, with footage showing an illegal ‘chokehold’ administered on Garner who repeatedly states: “I can’t breathe”. (A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide).      

For the Cambridge researchers, the Rialto results show that body-worn-cameras can mitigate the need for such evidence by preventing excessive use-of-force in the first place. Data from the Rialto experiment shows police officers are deterred from unacceptable uses-of-force — indeed, from using force in general — by the awareness that an interaction is being filmed; but this ‘deterrence’ relies on cognition of surveillance.

While the evidence provided by the video of Garner’s death would suggest a heinous miscarriage of justice, say researchers, the filming itself by a bystander would not generate the self-awareness and consequent behaviour modification during the incident as observed during Rialto’s institutionalised camera use.     

“The ‘preventative treatment’ of body-worn-video is the combination of the camera plus both the warning and cognition of the fact that the encounter is being filmed. In the tragic case of Eric Garner, police weren’t aware of the camera and didn’t have to tell the suspect that he, and therefore they, were being filmed,” said Dr Barak Ariel, from the Cambridge’s IoC, who conducted the crime experiment with Cambridge colleague Dr Alex Sutherland and Rialto police chief Tony Farrar.      

“With institutionalised body-worn-camera use, an officer is obliged to issue a warning from the start that an encounter is being filmed, impacting the psyche of all involved by conveying a straightforward, pragmatic message: we are all being watched, videotaped and expected to follow the rules,” he said.

“Police subcultures of illegitimate force responses are likely to be affected by the cameras, because misconduct cannot go undetected — an external set of behavioural norms is being applied and enforced through the cameras. Police-public encounters become more transparent and the curtain of silence that protects misconduct can more easily be unveiled, which makes misconduct less likely.” In Rialto, police use-of-force was 2.5 times higher before the cameras were introduced.

The idea behind body-worn-video, in which small high-definition cameras are strapped to a police officers’ torso or hat, is that every step of every police-public interaction — from the mundane to those involving deadly force — gets recorded to capture the closest approximation of actual events for evidence purposes, with only case-relevant data being stored.

In Rialto, an experimental model was defined in which all police shifts over the course of a year were randomly assigned to be either experimental (with camera) or control (without camera), encompassing over 50,000 hours of police-public interactions.

The dramatic reduction in both use-of-force incidents and complaints against the police during the experiment led to Rialto PD implementing an initial three-year plan for body-worn cameras. When the police force released the results, they were held up by police departments, media and governments in various nations as the rationale for camera technology to be integrated into policing.

research about body cameras

Ariel and colleagues are currently replicating the Rialto experiment with over 30 forces across the world, from the West Yorkshire force and Northern Ireland’s PSNI in the UK to forces in the United States and Uruguay, and aim to announce new findings at the IoC’s Conference for Evidence-Based Policing in July 2015. Early signs match the Rialto success, showing that body-worn-cameras do appear to have significant positive impact on interactions between officers and civilians.       

However, the researchers caution that more research is required, and urge police forces considering implementing body-worn-cameras to contact them for guidance on setting up similar experiments. “Rialto is but one experiment; before this policy is considered more widely, police forces, governments and researchers should invest further time and effort in replicating these findings,” said Dr Sutherland.

Body-worn cameras appear to be highly cost-effective: analysis from Rialto showed every dollar spent on the cameras saved about four dollars on complaints litigations, and the technology is becoming ever cheaper. However, the sheer levels of data storage required as the cameras are increasingly adopted has the potential to become crippling.

“The velocity and volume of data accumulating in police departments — even if only a fraction of recorded events turn into ‘downloadable’ recordings for evidentiary purposes — will exponentially grow over time,” said Ariel. “User licenses, storage space, ‘security costs’, maintenance and system upgrades can potentially translate into billions of dollars worldwide.”

And, if body-worn cameras become the norm, what might the cost be when video evidence isn’t available? “Historically, courtroom testimonies of response officers have carried tremendous weight, but prevalence of video might lead to reluctance to prosecute when there is no evidence from body-worn-cameras to corroborate the testimony of an officer, or even a victim,” said Ariel.

“Body-worn-video has the potential to improve police legitimacy and enhance democracy, not least by calming situations on the front line of policing to prevent the pain and damage caused by unnecessary escalations of volatile situations. But there are substantial effects of body-worn-video that can potentially offset the benefits which future research needs to explore.”

Inset image: screenshot taken from a West Midlands (UK) officer's body-worn-camera.

More information:

Ariel, B. et al. The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial . Journal Quantitative Criminology (Nov. 19, 2014)

Read Dr Barak Ariel and Dr Alex Sutherland discuss the Rialto experiment and the future of body-worn-cameras on The Conversation US . 

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence . If you use this content on your site please link back to this page. For image rights, please see the credits associated with each individual image.

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IAHSS Foundation

Body-Worn Cameras in Healthcare

Iahss foundation.

The International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation was established to foster and promote the welfare of the public through education and research and the development of a healthcare security and safety body of knowledge. The IAHSS Foundation promotes and develops research to further the maintenance and improvement of healthcare security and safety management, and it develops and conducts educational programs for the public. For more information, please visit www.iahssf.org.

The IAHSS Foundation is completely dependent on the charitable donations of individuals, corporations and organizations. Please help us continue our mission and our support of the healthcare industry and the security and safety professionals who serve institutions, staff and, most importantly, patients. To donate or to learn more about the IAHSS Foundation, please visit the website or contact Nancy Felesena at (888) 353-0990.

Thank you for your continued support.

Ronald Hawkins Research Committee Chair IAHSS Foundation

IAHSS Foundation Board of Directors

Bonnie Michelman, President Massachusetts General Hospital

Marilyn Hollier Security Risk Management Consultants

Dan Yaross, Treasurer Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Bill Navejar Consultant

Paul Greenwood Unity Health Toronto

Ronald Hawkins Security Industry Association

Steve Nibbelink Secure Care Products

Chad Rioux Motorola Solutions

Brigid Roberson Texas Medical Center

Scott Hill King’s Daughters Health System

INTRODUCTION

A body worn camera (BWC) is a wearable audio, video, and/or photographic recording system. It is typically comprised of a camera, microphone and rechargeable battery, with data storage capabilities. Some products also offer live streaming and GPS location data. BWCs have a range of uses and designs, of which the best-known use is as a part of policing equipment. BWCs entered the law enforcement environment in approximately 2005 and have grown in use significantly over the past 10 years. In a 2013 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), less than 25% of responding police departments reported using body cameras. By 2016, however, that number was as high as 95% for large cities and counties.1 In May of 2022, President Biden ordered all federal law enforcement officers to begin using BWCs.2 Presently, BWCs are used by a large number of law enforcement agencies with 25 states requiring officers to wear them.3 They are used by all law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom and at least 36 law enforcement agencies in Canada4,5 Proponents of BWCs believe that they are a deterrent to violence, can decrease the use of excessive force, improve transparency and trust and enhance incident documentation.

BWCs are used in the private sector in a variety of ways including action cameras for social and recreational use, within the world of commerce, in the military, journalism and in healthcare. Use in the private sector has also increased dramatically in the past few years, with estimates of more than $1 billion in growth in the industry between 2020 and 2025.6 In the healthcare sector, BWCs have been used in several ways including:

  • Security officers and hospital-based law enforcement
  • Emergency medical services
  • Public health, specifically for home health visits
  • Nurses in both psychiatric/behavioral health units and emergency departments

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018.7 The COVID-19 pandemic with staffing shortages, COVID restrictions, service delays, fatigue and burnout has further increased tension and frustration, leading to an even higher incidence of violence. A 2021 poll of more than 2,000 health care workers by the Canadian Union of Public Employees revealed that more than half had either experienced or witnessed an increase in violence since the beginning of the pandemic. Sixty-three percent of respondents reported they had experienced physical violence at their workplaces and 18% reported an increase in the number of incidents involving weapons since March of 2020. The trend is similar in the U.S. In a 2022 survey by National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, 48% of the more than 2,000 responding nurses reported an increase in workplace violence — more than double the percentage from a year earlier.

With the continued increases in healthcare violence, it is not surprising that tools like BWCs are being considered by more organizations. Unfortunately, there is not much aggregated information available about their use in the healthcare industry. There is minimal information available regarding how many facilities use them, how they are used, and whether empirical data is available to support their efficacy. There is also no regulation of BWCs in the private sector, though federal and state laws that were created for audio and stationary video recording such as CCTV systems apply. This article will examine the regulatory environment surrounding BWCs and how that environment affects healthcare, evaluate the advantages and potential limitations of their use, review two healthcare security case studies and discuss the best practices currently available for healthcare BWC programs.

REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

There are varying laws throughout the United States that regulate BWCs for law enforcement. The laws primarily dictate when and how BWCs can be used, if the public can request the footage and how long video footage must be retained. However, while these laws provide useful best practices for managing a BWC program, they only apply in healthcare facilities that employ law enforcement officers. The laws that apply to private security officers are the same as those that apply to private citizens regarding recording in general. They are the same regulations that apply to stationary cameras in healthcare facilities and fall into three main categories: whether audio only recordings are permitted, how many parties must give consent or be aware of the recording and whether recording is restricted when an expectation of privacy exists.

Audio-Only Recording

The majority of states have legislation in place that it is illegal to record or “intercept” audio only recordings. These laws are focused on eavesdropping and were often created prior to the invent of security cameras that could also record audio.10 Conversely, there are no state regulations related to video only recordings without audio. All BWCs currently on the market do both audio and video recording, so they are in compliance with these laws.

What Consent Is Required

Consent laws consider whether or not it is legal to record someone on audio without their permission. Federally, it is legal to record a conversation with at least the consent of one person – typically the person who has initiated the recording. This is called the one-party consent law. The one-party consent law does not cover video recordings, but if there is a conversation involved, the rule applies. However, several states have implemented stricter regulations requiring the consent of all parties for audio recording. In these states, BWCs used by private citizens like security officers cannot record any audio without the express consent of those being recorded, but video recordings without audio would be permissible.

Restrictions Where Privacy Is Expected

This third category is where the laws become more complex. Many of the state laws were designed for the prevention of video voyeurism and were not conceived with BWCs in mind. In general, citizens in the US have an expectation of privacy in certain locations such as restrooms and changing rooms, and recording of any kind is often prohibited in these areas. These areas have typically been determined using the Katz test, which was established during the US Supreme Court case of Katz v. United States. This test defines the reasonable expectation of privacy in a two-pronged approach: first that a person exhibited an actual, subjective expectation of privacy and, second, that the expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.11 So, if the state has restrictions in place for recording in locations where a “reasonable expectation of privacy” exists, the use of BWCs in those areas would be limited.

However, as noted in the test definition, identifying these areas is subjective. Some states specifically spell out locations where recording is prohibited. For example, the Arizona law states:

“It is unlawful for any person to knowingly photograph, videotape, film, digitally record or by any other means secretly view, with or without a device, another person without that person’s consent under either of the following circumstances: in a restroom, bathroom, locker room, bedroom or other location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the person is urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude or involved in sexual intercourse or sexual contact.”

A patient could be urinating, undressing or nude in a hospital room, potentially limiting the use of BWCs, at least when these activities are occurring under the Arizona law. There is certainly no expectation of privacy in public areas of hospitals, however, it is not nearly as clear cut when evaluating expectations of privacy within patient rooms. There have been multiple U.S. Supreme Court rulings about specific areas of hospitals and whether an expectation of privacy exists. These rulings have been focused on search and seizure of property and pertain to government agencies, but the expectation of privacy determinations would apply to the video/audio recording policies in states where “reasonable expectation of privacy” is part of the video/audio recording laws.

  • Several cases have held that patients being seen in an Emergency Department have a diminished expectation of privacy due to the nature of how emergency departments are set up and how they typically operate
  • Several cases have held that hospital rooms outside of the emergency department often have a diminished expectation of privacy. A 1994 case in Michigan concluded that while patients in hospital rooms may have some expectation of privacy in their closed closets, bags, and drawers, hospital rooms themselves are public areas where ‘‘doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff routinely go in and out of … at all hours of the day and night without regard to the patients’ wishes” and therefore the expectation of privacy is diminished. A 2022 case from Minnesota had similar findings
  • Some cases have held that patient rooms do have a reasonable expectation of privacy in some circumstances. A 2002 New Jersey case involved a patient who had been involuntarily committed for psychiatric care and had been at the hospital for two weeks. The court held the patient had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the living area of his hospital room, focusing on the length of the patient’s hospital stay and that the room contained a bed, nightstand, and personal wardrobe, similar to a home living area

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) disagrees with the supreme courts and feels there is an absolute expectation of privacy in Emergency Departments. They oppose the use of BWCs without the express consent of patients. In a June 2019 policy statement, they said:

“In emergency department (ED) patient-care areas, patients and staff have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Because audiovisual recordings made without explicit consent may compromise their privacy and confidentiality, such recordings should not be permitted, particularly when they contain personally identifiable information.”

The table below was compiled using data from two sources and independent research by the author of this article for the U.S. states.18,19 The table details how all states and the District of Columbia view these three issues. For information purposes, the states that require law enforcement officers to use BWCs are in italics. Additional information for Canada and Mexico is cited individually. Specific statutes vary. This table is intended to be a basis for additional research and may not be comprehensive.

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HIPAA and Other Privacy Laws

When considering privacy issues related to BWCs, it is also important to consider healthcare privacy regulations such as:

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S.
  • The Personal Health Information Protection Act 2004 (PHIPA) and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) in Canada
  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. Note: the GDPR is not a healthcare specific privacy law, but applies to all personal identifiable data which includes the healthcare sector

These regulations provide strict guidelines for protected healthcare information (PHI). Generally speaking, these regulations address the disclosure and storage of PHI, not how it is obtained or gathered,23 so none expressly prohibit using cameras during patient care or in patient care settings. Under HIPAA specifically, video, photo and audio recordings are permissible for the purposes of treatment, payment and healthcare operations.24 Security purposes would fall under healthcare operations as permissible activities. Under PHIPA, video recording is permissible as long as the “highest security precautions” are taken to protect any PHI captured on video. The GDPR has similar language, listing video surveillance in general as a “high risk operation requiring particular attention.

It is clear that healthcare privacy laws must play a large role in developing a strong BWC policy. Concerns about violating privacy regulations often cause apprehension among hospital administrators, risk managers, privacy and compliance personnel, human resources managers, and lawyers. This can be one of the biggest challenges to implementing a BWC program.27 Later in the article when discussing best practices, we will cover how to protect PHI that is captured in BWC footage.

Industry Standards

Given the absence of specific laws regulating the use of BWCs by security officers, one must look to professional industry organizations for standards and guidance. Unfortunately, there are minimal standards available. ASIS International, one of the largest worldwide professional security networking organizations, does not offer a standard or best practices for BWCs.28 Neither does the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO), the nation’s largest contract security association.29 After searching through multiple trade organizations and reaching out to several, only the International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) and the Data Protection Commission of Ireland have published standards or guidance related to the private security use of BWCs.

  • The decision-making process for introducing BWCs should include a multi-disciplinary team
  • Establishing appropriate use and deployment
  • Determining when not to deploy
  • Establishing expectations for initial and ongoing training and documentation
  • Defining the process to inform individuals they are being recorded when required
  • Reporting requirements that define when security staff do not activate the BWC during expected events or fail to record the duration of the event
  • Determining the retention requirements of captured recordings and the factors for when to include in the medical record and other required reports
  • Downloading, redacting, labeling, storing, and deleting captured audio and video recordings
  • Determining who is authorized to view, share, release, and delete audio and video recordings, and to whom
  • GUIDANCE FOR POLICIES AND INTERVENTIONS IN NON-U.S. HOSPITALS
  • BWC recordings should be treated the same as other protected health information and reside on a network that meets patient privacy program requirements

Data Protection Commission of Ireland

  • Utilization of cameras must be lawful and fair
  • Officers have an obligation to be transparent about recording
  • Must minimize the amount of personal data recorded
  • Must determine a retention policy appropriate for the organization and abide by said policy
  • Have a process in place for responding to private requests for the camera recordings

BENEFITS AND LIMITATIONS

There are several potential benefits to using a BWCs in the healthcare setting. They are small, lightweight and can withstand environmental extremes such as high temperatures and water. They are durable and will likely withstand a physical interaction or altercation. Because they are compact and typically have built in storage, they can be used for long periods of time without causing discomfort to the wearer or requiring recharge. AXON, one of the major worldwide suppliers of BWCs, touts them as a wonderful tool to decrease threatening behavior, hold people accountable, de-escalate incidents and preserve the truth.

The majority of studies on BWCs have been conducted in the law enforcement field, but they have applicability to other industries. For example, a 2017 randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 400 officers in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found that officers who wore BWCs generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports relative to control officers without cameras.33 Another study published in 2017 conducted an RCT involving 430 police shifts in a large British police force over a six-month period. The study found a 50% reduction in the odds of force used when BWCs were present compared with control conditions.34 A 2012 study conducted in Rialto, California randomly assigned BWCs to various frontline officers across 988 shifts over the course of one year. The study found that there was a 60% reduction in officer use of force incidents following camera deployment as well as an 88% reduction in the number of citizen complaints.

A few smaller studies have been conducted in the healthcare setting, but they were not security specific. In 2014, the use of body-worn cameras by nurses was tested in the United Kingdom on two wards at a high-security psychiatric hospital. The study noted a small reduction in incidents of assaults on staff. Moreover, there was a “notable reduction in antisocial and aggressive behavior”, according to a spokeswoman for the West London NHS trust, which runs the facility where the study occurred. In 2019, Ellis et. al. conducted a pilot study evaluating BWC use in mental health wards. 50 cameras were used among nursing and security staff in seven mental health wards over a period of four months. They found that the use of BWCs was associated with a reduction in the overall seriousness of aggression and violence in reported incidents and with a marked decline in the use of tranquilizing injections during restraint incidents.

An additional benefit of BWCs is the opportunity to use the footage for training, quality control and assisting with response strategies.38,39 While some of this information can be gleaned from standard CCTV footage, BWCs provide a different perspective and provide audio, which many CCTV systems do not. This may present a more complete picture of situations and make training scenarios more realistic. Additionally, BWCs are mobile, enabling recording to occur not only in hospital common areas, but in all areas of the facility where they can capture the exact nature of aggressive interactions.40 They are a significant force multiplier of a traditional CCTV system, essentially eliminating blind spots.

Disadvantages and Limitations

There are several studies about the effect of BWCs on violence, assaults and use of force that had significantly different findings than those mentioned above. Ariel et. al. conducted a meta-analysis of multi-site, multi-national RCTs from 10 discrete tests. The analysis, which included 2.2 million police officer-hours, looked at police use of force but also assault against officers which was not a component of the original studies. Averaged over the 10 trials that were reviewed, BWCs had no effect on police use of force and led to an increased rate of assaults against officers wearing cameras.41 Another study to consider is a 2017 RCT of more than 2,200 officers in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. For each of the metrics tracked (use-of-force incidents and civilian complaints, among other outcomes) the study did not find any statistically significant differences indicating a change in either police or civilian behavior after adopting BWCs.42 Finally, in 2020, Lum et. al. conducted a literature review of 38 RCTs or quasi‐experimental research designs that measured police or citizen behaviors relevant to BWCs. Almost all studies were carried out in a single municipal jurisdiction in the United States. Among other conclusions, their review found that the use of BWCs did not have consistent or significant effects on officers’ use of force or citizens resisting arrest.

Conflicting data on efficacy is not the only limitation of BWCs to consider. There are HIPAA and privacy considerations as previously discussed. There is also a concern about trust. Even if healthcare providers are not the ones specifically wearing body cameras, their presence in the environment could alter provider-patient interactions. Megan Allyse, an ethicist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota said there may “be a cooling effect on patients’ and healthcare providers’ being honest with each other. And this is a million times more when you have stigmatized conditions like mental health or drug use and addiction.”

There are also some limitations in the camera itself, as noted by Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute in a special report. Some of the issues noted include:

  • A camera does not follow the eyes of the wearer. “A body camera photographs a broad scene, but it can’t document where within that scene you are looking at any given instant,” Lewinski said. “If you glance away from where the camera is concentrating, you may not see action within the camera frame that appears to be occurring ‘right before your eyes’.”
  • A camera may see better than human eyes in low light conditions. “The high-tech imaging of body cameras allows them to record with clarity in many low-light settings,” Lewinski said. “When footage is screened later, it may actually be possible to see elements of the scene in sharper detail than you could at the time the camera was activated.”
  • A camera records in 2D without the benefit of depth. “Depending on the lens involved, cameras may compress distances between objects or make them appear closer than they really are,” Lewinski said. “Without a proper sense of distance, a reviewer may misinterpret the level of threat an officer was facing.”

Lastly, cost must be considered a limitation to the implementation of BWCs. Not only is there a cost for the cameras themselves, but there are also charging stations and carriers as well as software and data storage equipment necessary to support appropriate video retention to consider. Data storage is often set up in a cloud-based environment to limit the cost of purchasing and maintaining large storage servers; however, cloud-based storage is an annual cost, not a one-time fee. A 2021 cost study for the state of Maryland estimated that the annual cost for a camera program, including the cost of support personnel and storage was about $2,445 per officer/camera. The lower and higher ends of the range of costs were $1,791 and $3,788 per officer/camera, respectively. If a facility chooses to implement the cameras in a local environment with onsite storage, the annual cost would be lower but there would be a larger upfront cost for data storage and servers. Depending on the number of officers equipped with BWCs and the amount of days encompassed by the video retention program of the organization, storage costs can be enormous, in the tens of thousands for smaller entities to the hundreds of thousands for larger. That is a hefty cost to consider when weighing the pros and cons of a program, though factors like decreased force incidents and decreased legal costs following incidents would potentially offset the costs.

CASE STUDIES

As mentioned earlier in this article, there are no studies or estimates that quantify the number of healthcare facilities that have implemented BWCs programs. The information is gleaned case by case by scouring the internet for case studies, policies or position statements from facilities on BWCs. Below are two examples of healthcare entities that have implemented BWCs with some insight into their experiences. To provide these case studies, the author of this article interviewed the program director for each organization, asking the same list of questions to each.

Location: Springfield, Missouri # of Hospitals: 6 and 80+ clinics # of Licensed Beds: 1,194 # of Officers in the Program: 80 FTE Length of Time in Use: 4 years

Reasons for Implementing: The intention of the program was twofold. Goal number one was protecting the organization and the officers when they interacted with the public. We use the cameras for all interactions – from a slip and fall to a physical altercation. Many of these incidents have historically been one on one, which too often creates a “he said/she said” situation. The BWC creates an unbiased third party in those situations. Goal number two was to use the camera as a deterrent to some behaviors. Missouri is a one-party consent state, so we do not have to announce that an event is being recorded. Sometimes we choose to, which has de-escalated some situations. It does not work every time, but it can sometimes lessen the aggression that we encounter.

Set Up: We use an AXIS BWC that integrates into our Genetech video management system. They also integrate with the 1,400 fixed cameras throughout our facilities. The cameras are slightly larger than a credit card and about ½” thick. Video sits on the video management system (VMS) behind the hospital’s fire wall and is the property of CoxHealth; nothing is cloud based. The video record is considered part of the patient’s overall interaction with the health system.

Policy: Our policy went through multiple iterations, but that is true any time you are bringing on something new. When you are out a little in front of the industry, you go through multiple iterations. We reached out to learn what others were doing. Legal, risk, nursing and the executive team were all involved in the policy development. The BWC rollout should not surprise anyone and we worked hard to get buy-in from all key stakeholders on the front end. If we have a serious incident that occurs on this campus, we have a multi-disciplinary review committee that evaluates the incident and BWC footage is a big part of the review.

Challenge: There will always be questions about HIPAA. We have a very engaged and informed legal department. They were an integral part of the decision to move forward with BWCs as well as with the development of the policy.

Advice to Those Considering a Program: Technology has come a long way in the last few years. There are multiple options available to consumers. Anyone considering a program needs to do their homework. Some cameras have unique features. For us, the marriage to our VMS was critical. We also wanted a system that was simple in its application. The camera controller assigns the camera at the beginning of the shift. When the officer puts the camera into the controller at the end of the shift, it automatically downloads. The tool must be useable by the officer. Additionally, our cameras buffer which means they will record 30 seconds prior to when the button was pushed. This is helpful in situations that develop rapidly.

Bottom Line: Statistically, we did not see a decrease in violent incidents. We do see some situations de-escalating more quickly with the use of the cameras. But we can clearly show that it has caused a reduction in frivolous lawsuits.

Sinai Health

Location: Toronto, Ontario # of Hospitals: 2 # of Licensed Beds: 831 # of Officers in the Program: 170 Length of Time in Use: 15 years Reasons for Implementing: BWCs were initially implemented during a pilot initiative at Sinai Health in 2008, as part of a clinical research endeavor aimed at investigating their potential to mitigate workplace violence incidents within the Emergency Department. Officers participating in this study were equipped with BWCs and provided specific communication scripts to inform individuals/patients in escalating situations that they were being recorded during their interactions in order to assess whether the announcement of surveillance through BWCs would serve to limit behavior and aid in de-escalation.

At the end of the trial period, it was determined that the introduction of BWCs had no discernible impact on behavioral outcomes or the de-escalation of incidents. Despite this outcome, Sinai Health opted to retain and further explore the use of BWCs, as they had already been procured for the study, which allowed us to continue exploring alternative benefits and applications within the hospital setting.

After almost a decade of use and exploring various potential benefits after the initial study, our attention shifted towards harnessing the capabilities of this technology for the enhancement of clinical/organizational quality improvement practices by presenting the unbiased, objective account that BWCs offer. The BWCs continue to show no effect in de-escalating violent behavior in our setting, but by offering security’s documentation and BWC recordings as supplemental material for incident, case and process review within the hospital, we have found them invaluable for quality improvement, training and staff perception of safety.

Set Up: We maintain a locally hosted BWC software and video storage behind an internal fire wall to limit risk of hacking and unauthorized access to footage. Only a small number of department personnel have access to the system and the software logs all activity pertaining to the footage including what is accessed and by whom as well as if a video is altered or exported. Videos are automatically deleted after 30 days unless they have been flagged for retention by leadership and/or key stakeholders. Access and review of the footage is governed by department policy.

Policy: There is an organizational policy that governs all video programs. The policy can be viewed as intentionally generic to allow flexibility in its application and reliance on subsequent department procedure. The specific document related to the use of BWCs is a departmental procedure that can be modified and updated more easily to meet the needs of the hospital and educational needs of the officers. As we strive to maintain the culture of BWCs as an additive service to the staff, patients and people we support, officers announce that they are recording for “safety and documentation purposes.” Very rarely is BWC footage accessed as a means to discipline without notification of incident, but instead to supplement the culture of continuous learning and improvement within the department. We are constantly reviewing and updating the policies to help promote this aspect of the department to drive a culture of service refinement and growth.

Advice to Those Considering a Program: Considering a program is one thing, but ensuring you have support for the program is something else. You must evaluate the culture at the organization and determine how the use of BWCs is going to further that culture and the organizational goals. It must speak to every single person in the organization. Have at least one use-case that each group/stakeholder would otherwise benefit from and establish clear limitations to the systems use to emphasize accountability in protecting each group/stakeholder from misuse. It is essential to secure executive-level sponsorship for BWC initiatives. These devices represent a substantial investment, so when implementing a BWC system, emphasis on training and education becomes paramount. It is crucial that our officers convey the right messages and have a comprehensive understanding of the technology that the organization has ultimately agreed to support.

To ensure a successful rollout, widespread awareness within the organization is a must. Equally important is the establishment of robust processes, along with the ability to effectively communicate these processes. Topics such as cybersecurity, video retention policies and controlled access to recorded footage are absolutely critical aspects that require attention and repeated communication to ensure the overall success of a BWC program.

Bottom Line: The BWC program has shown its biggest advantages to the Sinai Health security program by educating senior executives and clinical partners on the situations faced by front-line staff, clinicians and security officers by allowing them to appreciate the successes and difficulties faced through the objective documentation BWCs permit. One of our roles as security professionals is to educate and BWCs have been a wonderful tool for that. BWCs dispel many of the unknown elements that an organization faces when reviewing events and can lead to more support in building the framework for new programs, staffing, etc. We have been fortunate to receive such support from the organization over the last few years because we have been able to successfully integrate ourselves into organizational/clinical review processes by using this technology to advocate in support of what nurses, clinicians and officers deal with daily. We like to tell the officer “you have to be a master of your tools,” because, at the end of the day, BWCs are just another tool in an officer’s arsenal to help promote service. Ultimately, it comes down to having defined processes and standards that reflect your organization and support everyone equally.

If you can carry out the process to a high standard, that’s when you’ll find success.

IMPLEMENTATION BEST PRACTICES

There are many advantages and limitations to weigh when considering implementing a BWC program in the healthcare environment. Given the limited amount of direct guidance on the subject from law makers and industry organizations, it is essential that healthcare organizations work to follow all best practice information available when implementing a program.

Strengths and Limitations

The present review highlights many valuable tools and resources that can be implemented. Understanding the patient risks of the homeless population can provide valuable insight into issues that may arise. There were a variety of interventions that target many aspects of patient care that are more common among patients who are homeless. Many of these practices can be cost-effective measures to help improve patient health and well-being. Incorporating interventions, especially multilevel interventions, may have a dramatic impact on homeless patients.

There are some limitations to the present study and the information available on the topic. First, there was an overall lack of literature available on violence in emergency room and hospital settings for homeless patients. Additionally, not all studies used the same metrics for success which can limit overall comparison. While there were a variety of studies from around the world, specific conditions within each country may limit generalizability to other parts of the world. Also, few national policies existed to outline homeless patient discharge procedures and were not always adhered to by individual hospitals (Gallaher et al., 2020).

Policy Development

While the contents of the BWC policy are important, what may be more crucial is the composition of the team engaged to create the policy. Depending on the culture of an organization, there may be various levels of resistance to adopting a new technology. Including the right team members from the inception of the project will give the best chance of comprehensive adoption and commitment to the program. At minimum, the team should include:

  • Senior leadership
  • Clinical leadership
  • Security leadership as well as security officers who will be using the technology
  • Risk management and legal
  • Compliance, accreditation and privacy
  • Information technology and cybersecurity
  • Public information office
  • Human resources

What to Record

Establishing what to record is a major policy point to resolve early in program development with the multi-disciplinary team. Continuous 24/7 recording is not practical, nor is it an efficient use of video storage space, so the development team must decide in what circumstances the camera should be activated. Some common choices include:

  • Every interaction with a security officer. In this circumstance, every time an officer interacts with anyone for any reason, the camera would be activated. This ensures broad coverage of an officer’s interactions and will likely catch a few incidents that more restricted programs may not. There may be a further clarification as to whether this includes interaction with employees or only patients and guests. If using this approach, it must be considered if there should be exceptions for sensitive situations such as interviewing a crime victim or talking to a distraught family member
  • Every security incident.  What constitutes a security incident should already be a defined component of security policy. If it is not, it would typically include when a security officer is called for a security purpose. Officers often have responsibilities that would not be considered security incidents such as helping a guest find their car, assisting persons with physical limitations out of vehicles or collecting lost and found items. In this model, those types of interactions would not be recorded, but a security call to take a theft report or escort money would be
  • Only incidents of anger or aggression. With this option, only incidents that involve verbal or physical aggression would be recorded. If this is the chosen path, it is critical to select a BWC that has a buffering capability. As aggressive incidents often develop quickly, the buffering feature records a set amount of time before the button was pushed to activate the camera
  • Location based. With this model, officers would activate the camera always in areas that have been identified by the organization as “high risk.” This may include the emergency department, inpatient psychiatric unit, intensive care unit, neonatal intensive care unit, labor and delivery and/or pediatric units. This type of arrangement would provide increased privacy protection to patients in areas where the risk is low for violence, however, it would likely miss some aggressive incidents. Another location-based option would be to say that recording occurs in all locations, except for certain locations where the organization has deemed there is an increased expectation of privacy. This could include inpatient rooms or a behavioral health unit for example

The determination of which option is best depends on the culture of the organization and the goals of the BWC program. If the program goal is to capture all aggressive incidents, it may be beneficial to begin with the most restrictive model and then expand if all aggressive incidents are not being captured. If the goal of the program is quality improvement for clinical care or security interactions, a broader definition may be the better route.

Notification of Recording

State or country laws may dictate that it is necessary to post signage or announce when a BWC is in use. However, even in states where it is not required, it may be beneficial to do so. Sometimes the presence of a BWC coupled with a warning or signage that cameras are in use is enough to deescalate a threatening situation. That benefit will not be realized without posted signage and scripting from officers about the activation of a BWC.

Protecting PHI

To be in compliance with all the aforementioned privacy laws, the policy must define steps that are taken to protect PHI, particularly how that data is protected and how access is limited only to those who have a business need to review the footage.

How the data will be stored to limit access by parties with malintent should be determined in conjunction with the information technology and cybersecurity teams. First, the software system should use end to end encryption whenever data is being transmitted or stored. This prevents access by individuals who do not have a decryption key.54 This discussion should also include if data storage will be cloud-based or on premises. If the footage is being stored by a cloud-based software solution, a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) should be in place.55 If it is on premises, it should be behind a firewall and ideally on a security network that is separate from the primary hospital network.

To prevent unauthorized users from viewing video surveillance, it is essential that the surveillance software is password protected. Each employee that requires access should be granted unique login credentials to access video surveillance, and there must be a credentialing hierarchy that limits access to recorded video. Once an officer has uploaded files and appropriately associated them with reports, that officer should no longer have routine access to the footage. Additionally, the software must have auditing controls to ensure that unauthorized users are not accessing video surveillance, or authorized users are not abusing their privileges. “By keeping an audit log, administrators can establish regular data access patterns for each employee, allowing them to easily identify when data is being accessed outside the norm. When data access is outside the norm, this usually means that either the employee is abusing their privileges and therefore violating HIPAA, or an unauthorized user, such as a hacker, has gained access to the employee’s login credentials.”

Who outside of the security team has access to BWC footage should be established. Is it restricted only to a Quality Improvement (QI) team? Do IT support personnel need access? Are departmental directors able to view footage of incidents that occur in their areas of responsibility? If an employee is captured in a video, does the employee have a right to view it? All of these questions should be addressed in the policy.

Quality Improvement Program

The benefits of using BWC footage for QI have been well demonstrated across a variety of studies; however, how best to use the cameras for QI depends again on the goals of the program. They can be used strictly to evaluate security interactions, but can also be used to evaluate de-escalation skills, clinical practices and communication. But there must also be a QI program in place evaluating specifically the BWC program. At minimum, it should include a review process for if a camera fails, if a camera is not properly activated during an incident or if the a camera provides insight that the handling of an incident had opportunities for improvement

Training on the device is pretty simple; the cameras and software are user friendly technology. The training areas of focus should be on the policy itself and addressing concerns. The nuances of when to record, when not to record, what scripting to use, etc. may take a while for officers to grasp. Additionally, there will probably be concerns amongst the officers as well as general staff throughout the facility about the introduction of BWCs. It is imperative to train all team members on the purposes of the program and how the footage will be used. The program will not have a successful roll out if people are surprised by the introduction of BWCs or their concerns have not been addressed.

Retention Program

The majority of policies reviewed default to 30, 60 or 90 days of retention for video that has not been flagged as part of evidence. Flagged items are either stored indefinitely until no longer needed or have a new retention period based on the statue of limitations for an action to be filed. The organization must decide what is appropriate with input from the risk and legal teams who will have insight into the typical length of time between incidents and the filing of legal action in the area. Overall retention is a critical concern when thinking about cost. The longer the retention period, the more videos will need to be stored at any given time.

Release of Footage

The last critical item for consideration in the policy is under what circumstances BWC footage will be released outside of the healthcare organization. If the BWC footage for 19 an incident is considered part of the patient’s record, he/she may have a legal right to request the footage. In some states, this is true, even if the footage is not considered part of the patient’s record. Law enforcement agencies may also be interested in requesting footage if it shows evidence of a crime, such as an assault. During the policy development phase is the right time to make these determinations. Healthcare organizations should meet with local law enforcement to discuss how the footage can be used and under what circumstances, if any, the healthcare organization is willing or able to release it. It should also be discussed whether the ability to redact footage is part of the implementation plan. Redacting footage can be costly, depending on the software solution selected, but it is necessary to protect the privacy of bystanders, family members, patients and employees who may be captured in the footage but not be part of the incident. There could also be data visible on computer screens or medical information on monitors that should be redacted prior to release. If there are any circumstance under which the healthcare organization would consider releasing BWC footage to the general public or news media, the public information office should be involved in the discussion as well.

Implementing a BWC program can offer many benefits to a healthcare organization. It may reduce incidents of violence, increases the perception of safety and has shown excellent results for quality improvement and training. There are several potential disadvantages including contested efficacy, privacy concerns, technical limitations and cost. The case studies highlighted that BWCs are a tool that can be very useful in the healthcare industry if properly implemented. Successful implementation of a BWC program requires:

  • Senior leadership support
  • A clear definition of the program goals and how BWCs will supplement the organization’s culture and other safety programs
  • A well thought out policy that is developed by a multi-disciplinary team
  • Thorough vetting by the legal department to ensure the program complies with the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction
  • Technical product selection that considers the program goals as well as IT infrastructure and security needs
  • A rollout process that includes organization wide training

The use of BWCs is continuing to grow in healthcare, but the research is limited. The healthcare industry would benefit from research to determine how many organizations are using BWCs, how they are being used and what efficacy they are showing specifically in the healthcare sector.

Sarah J. Spears has been in the safety and security field for more than 20 years. She holds an M.S. in Safety and Emergency Management from the University of Tennessee and a B.A. in Journalism from the Ohio State University. She is a Certified Healthcare Security Officer and Nationally Registered Paramedic. She has worked in multiple industries including amusement parks, healthcare, manufacturing and special events. Previously, she served in the Arlington Texas Fire Department as a special event emergency planner participating in public safety planning for large events including the 2010 and 2011 World Series and Super Bowl 45. Ms. Spears may be reached at [email protected].

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The mission of the IAHSS Foundation is to advance the awareness and professional competence of the healthcare security and safety industry through research, education, and recognition.

International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation 1901 N Roselle Road, Suite 800, Schaumburg IL  60195 Phone: (630) 529-3913 Email: [email protected]

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EDITORIAL: Police body cameras work only when process is transparent

Feb. 23—MUNICIPALITIES and police departments alike have promoted the utility of body-mounted cameras, in part, by saying that the devices would make police operations more transparent to the public,

"Body cameras hold people accountable — and that's everybody," Jon Rococi, then Farrell police chief, said in 2022, when the city announced its purchase of the devices at a cost of $30,000, none of which came from tax revenues. "That's the officer and the citizens."

Justification for police body cameras is that they protect residents from false crime accusations and police from false excessive force accusations. But the devices hold both sides accountable only when the public can see them.

And in Pennsylvania, we usually can't.

Images captured by police body cameras aren't covered under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law.

A completely separate law, Act 22 of 2017, governs all police audio and video recordings. The public can still request police recordings, but only under Act 22, which gives law enforcement broad justification for denying public access to recordings.

Under Act 22, the following are legally justifiable causes for denying an access request if the police recording includes:

— Potential evidence in a criminal matter

— Information pertaining to an investigation or a matter in which a criminal charge has been filed

Confidential information or victim information and the reasonable redaction of the recording would not safeguard potential evidence.

With rare exceptions, that would cover any video or audio recording created by police body cameras or vehicle dashboard cameras. Consequently, police and prosecutors would almost never be compelled to release dash cam video or body camera video.

State Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny County, attempted to insert almost two dozen amendments into Act 22 with the purpose of making the public review process for police recordings more transparent. Miller spoke for for two hours defending his proposals.

"It was probably the longest I've ever spoken on the House floor," said Miller, who has represented a district in Pittsburgh's southwest suburbs since 2013. "I didn't win at all."

Miller said he fought for public access to police body camera video because he saw it as integral to improving relationships between "those in the community and those who are sworn to protect it."

We second that sentiment.

Farrell is the only municipal police department in Mercer County to equip its police officers with body cameras, and only since 2022, but the issue has already come up.

City police arrested Aries Shaw of Youngstown on Jan. 27, 2023, in an action captured both on bystander video and police body cameras. Three days later, District Attorney Peter Acker said the police video showed that Shaw "clearly resisted arrest," as quoted by The Herald.

However, the images to which Acker referred were not considered public record until they are presented as evidence in court. Since Shaw pleaded guilty before trial to resisting arrest and possession with intent to deliver, the images were never released

We're not questioning Acker's characterization of the body cam video. Shaw admitted in court that he resisted arrest, which lends credibility to the district attorney's account.

But we live in a time when trust between law enforcement and citizens, especially those in traditionally marginalized communities, is damaged. If police body cameras are to help fix that, the public must have access to the images.

Miller said the state legislature missed an opportunity to make the body cameras a true tool for accountability.

"On the transparency side, I believe we missed the mark."

Without that transparency, the devices can never fully realize their potential to protect both police and Pennsylvania residents from false accusations.

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Climate change and loss of sea ice putting polar bears at risk of starvation, collar cameras show

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What is a day in the life of a polar bear like? Researchers recently found out after strapping collar cameras to several bears.

Scientists have long hypothesized what would happen to polar bear populations in the Arctic as sea ice continues to melt at unprecedented rates . But now they have visual evidence of just how hard it will be for polar bears to find sustenance as the sea ice disappears.

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt their preferred prey -- seals that are stock full of fat and blubber that provide polar bears the energy they need to survive the elements of the Arctic.

PHOTO: Polar bear on land in the Western Hudson Bay region.

As the sea ice experiences mass melting, the polar bears have no other choice but to gravitate toward land. And researchers are now witnessing how the species is adapting to land-dwelling after fastening cameras equipped with GPS trackers and cameras onto 20 bears living in the western Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, Anthony Pagano, research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center, told ABC News. The bears were studied during a three-week ice-free period from 2019 to 2022, Pagano said.

The researchers monitored the daily energy expenditure, changes in body mass, diet, behavior and movement, finding that polar bears could be at risk of extinction during Arctic ice-free periods when they are forced to find food on land -- despite their ability to adapt their diets, hunting and foraging behaviors, a paper, published Tuesday in Nature , found.

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The collar monitors indicated that individual polar bears chose different strategies to reduce energy loss during the ice-free periods, including fasting, reducing movement and resorting to eating berries and birds. The strategies were chosen independent of age, sex, reproductive stage or initial fat levels, according to the paper.

"The bears seem to be doing different things, regardless of their body condition," Pagano said. "There is no real clear explanation for why a particular bear might be more active or less active."

PHOTO: Image of collar footage captured during the study.

Some of the bears were "highly sedentary" and rested and fasted for the three-week monitoring period, Pagano said. However, most of the bears were "highly active" and moved about the landscape, feeding on a number of terrestrial foods, including bird carcasses, caribou carcasses, grass, seaweed and berries, he added.

"Regardless of which behavior strategy the bears were using, they all lost weight at similar rates, which highlighted that those bears were more active," Pagano said.. "Basically, they were compensating for their higher activity levels through the terrestrial foods they were eating, but they weren't getting any net benefit from that."

MORE: Greenland Ice Sheet melting faster than previously thought, scientists say

On average, the bears lost about 1 kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds, per day, Pagano said.

The findings suggest that polar bears obtain little benefit from foraging on land when it comes to prolonging the predicted time to starvation, as 19 of the 20 bears studied lost mass during that time, the researchers said.

PHOTO: Image of collar footage captured during the study.

If sea ice were available, the bears would typically gain weight because they have access to their preferred prey, Pagano said. Polar bears have perfected an efficient strategy called "still hunting" in which they rest near a breathing hole a seal will scratch open in the ice and wait there until a seal comes up to breathe -- when they pounce, he added.

At first glance, polar bears may not seem too different from their terrestrial cousins, like brown and black bears, John Whiteman, chief research scientist for Polar Bears International and assistant professor of biology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, told ABC News. But from an evolutionary standpoint, polar bears have become "backed into a corner" by becoming specialized on the marine mammal prey, he said.

MORE: More interactions between humans and polar bears are likely as sea ice melts due to climate change, scientists say

The food available on land is much less energy-dense, and the bears exert much more energy to catch terrestrial prey, Pagano said.

"Those terrestrial food sources these polar bears are taking in basically does them no good," Whiteman said.

In recent years, sea ice has begun to break up sooner in the springtime and summertime and does not re-form until much later in the fall. The availability of sea ice is about a month shorter than it was about 30 years ago, according to recent research.

"With climate change and sea ice loss, the fear that is slowly being realized is that ultimately polar bear populations will shrink in size and then in some places they will start to disappear entirely," Whiteman said.

PHOTO: Polar bear on land in the Western Hudson Bay region.

This particular population of bears is spending about three weeks longer on land than they were in the 1980s, Pagano said.

"With forecasted declines in sea ice, the longer bears are on land, the more weight they're going to be losing, and they're at greater risk of starvation in the future," Pagano said.

MORE: Save polar bears by protecting mothers and cubs, experts say

While most of the modeling so far indicates that many of the polar bear populations are at risk of future climate warming, bears at the southern extent of their range are at greatest risk, Pagano said.

Younger bears are likely at the greatest risk of starvation, particularly subadults and dependent cubs, as they are not able to accumulate as much stored energy relative to adult bears that are larger and much more skilled at hunting, Pagano said.

PHOTO: Polar bear on land in the Western Hudson Bay region.

Not all of the video footage captured on the collar cams contained bad news, Pagano said. Personalities were on full display as researchers documented adult males play fighting with each other, both on land and on water.

"We were pretty blown away by the video footage," Pagano said. "There was a real variety of behaviors that the bears were exhibiting."

Outfitting the bears with the collars is a feat in itself. Typically, female bears are collared, because the devices typically won't fit around a male's neck, Whiteman said.

From a helicopter, the bears are typically sedated using a dart once the researchers determine they are in a safe enough space. Once the bear is immobalized, the collars are then fastened and are programmed to detach at the end of the study period, Whiteman said.

"Fortunately, polar bears are such large animals that you can put a fairly robust collar on them with a solid battery to power something like a video camera and be pretty confident that it's not influencing their behavior," he said.

MORE: Polar bears are inbreeding due to melting sea ice, posing risk to survival of the species, scientists say

Drastically lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the main culprit behind global warming, is the key to ensuring the survival of the species, the experts said.

"It's really a matter of mitigating CO2 emissions," Pagano said.

Related Topics

  • Climate Change
  • Environment

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COMMENTS

  1. Research on Body-Worn Cameras and Law Enforcement

    Research does not necessarily support the effectiveness of body-worn cameras in achieving those desired outcomes. A comprehensive review of 70 studies of body-worn cameras use found that the larger body of research on body-worn cameras showed no consistent or no statistically significant effects. This meta-analysis was rated by CrimeSolutions ...

  2. Body-Worn Cameras: What the Evidence Tells Us

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    Over the past decade, body-worn cameras (BWC) have attracted significant empirical and public attention in discussions of American policing. Law enforcement agencies, driven by public demand ...

  5. Research on body-worn cameras

    Research Summary. In this article, we provide the most comprehensive narrative review to date of the research evidence base for body-worn cameras (BWCs). Seventy empirical studies of BWCs were examined covering the impact of cameras on officer behavior, officer perceptions, citizen behavior, citizen perceptions, police investigations, and ...

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    Drawing together the literature on police body-worn cameras and video-recorded evidence in domestic and family violence matters, ... Miller L, Toliver J and Police Executive Research Forum (2014) Implementing a body-worn camera program: Recommendations and lessons learned.

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    Now, new results from one of the largest randomised-controlled experiments in the history of criminal justice research, led by the University of Cambridge's Institute of Criminology, show that the use by officers of body-worn cameras is associated with a startling 93% reduction in citizen complaints against police.

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    Research and audits conducted in inpatient services in England revealed patients often experience verbal abuse, fighting, bullying, theft, racism, ... Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force: Results from a global multi‐site experiment. European Journal of Criminology, 13 (6), 744-755.

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  12. Body-worn cameras and unintended consequences: A case study of a

    Lum C, Stoltz M, Koper CS, et al. (2019) Research on body-worn cameras. Criminology & Public Policy 18: 93-118. Crossref. Google Scholar. Makin DA (2016) When the watchers are watched: an interpretive phenomenological analysis of body-worn cameras. Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology 4(1): 113-151.

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    Body-worn cameras (BWCs) convey a "straight-forward, pragmatic message: 'You are being watched, videotaped, and expected to follow the rules'.". • This "self-awareness effect" caused by the camera's "neutral third eye" affects the psyches of officers and suspects alike, prompting suspects to "cool down" aggressive ...

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  19. 10 Years after Ferguson, Body-Worn Police Cameras Reduce Use of ...

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  22. PDF Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program

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    without body-worn cameras.11 More Research Is Needed An increasing number of studies have emerged to help fill knowledge gaps in the current body of research on body-worn cameras. Researchers at George Mason University noted that 14 studies have been completed and at least 30 others are currently examining the impact of body-worn

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