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Body Worn Cameras are Helping to Reduce Complaints against Police

Body Worn Cameras are Helping to Reduce Complaints against Police

As more law enforcement personnel nationwide are provided with body-worn cameras as part of their standard kit; University of Cambridge's Institute of Criminology found that the use of body-worn cameras by police officers is associated with an enormous 93% reduction in public complaints against police and law enforcement personnel. 

Researchers and law enforcement professionals comment that the physical presence of a body-worn camera modifies public behavior through what is known as 'the observer effect'. People are generally prone to behave less antisocially if they know that their actions are being recorded. Likewise, the person recording also modifies their behavior knowing that any actions considered out of line could come under scrutiny from their superiors, helping to maintain consistency in policing. 

"Cooling down potentially volatile police-public interactions to the point where official grievances against the police have virtually vanished may well lead to the conclusion that the use of body-worn cameras represents a turning point in policing. There can be no doubt that body-worn cameras increase the transparency of frontline policing" comments Dr. Barak Ariel, lead author of the Cambridge body camera study. 

Dr. Barak Ariel goes on to say that "the cameras create an equilibrium between the account of the officer and the account of the suspect at the same event - increasing accountability on both sides."

It is important to note that researchers maintain these behavioural changes rely on cameras recording entire encounters with officers issuing an early warning that the camera is switched on - triggering the 'observer effect'. Results from the same experiment suggest that police use-of-force and assaults on officers actually increased when the camera was switched on during an interaction, as this can be seen as an escalation of the situation by both officer and suspect. 


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