Police Body-Worn Cameras: Effects on Officers’ Burnout and Perceived Organizational Support

Date01 March 2019
Published date01 March 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Police Body-Worn
Cameras: Effects on
Officers’ Burnout
and Perceived
Organizational Support
Ian Adams
and Sharon Mastracci
Police departments in the United States are rapidly adopting body-worn cameras
(BWCs). To date, no study has investigated the effects of BWCs on police officers
themselves, despite evidence suggesting negative effects of electronic performance
monitoring on employee well-being. Police officers already experience higher levels
of burnout than other professions. We hypothesize that the intense surveillance of
BWCs will manifest in how police officers perceive the organizational support of
their departments and will increase burnout. We test these hypotheses using data
from patrol officers (n¼271) and structural equation modeling. We find BWCs
increase police officer burnout, and this effect is statistically different from zero.
We also find that BWCs decrease officers’ perceived organizational support,
which mediates the relationship between BWCs and burnout. Greater perceived
organizational support can blunt the negative effects of BWCs. Our study is the first
to situate effects on officers at the center of BWC literature.
body-worn cameras, burnout, perceived organizational support, police, structural
equation modeling
Department of Political Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ian Adams, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Email: ian.adams@utah.edu
Police Quarterly
2019, Vol. 22(1) 5–30
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611118783987
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are a relatively new technology intended to
increase transparency in policing, decrease police use of force, and decrease
complaints related to off‌icer misbehavior. Broad, but not unequivocal, support
for BWCs is found among police off‌icers (Fouche, 2014; Gramagila & Phillips,
2017; Jennings, Fridell, & Lynch, 2014; Sandhu, 2017; Young & Ready, 2015),
law enforcement leadership (Smykla, Crow, Crichlow, & Snyder, 2016), and the
public (Ellis, Jenkins, & Smith, 2015). BWCs have the potential to strengthen
relationships between police and the communities they serve. Ultimately, how-
ever, “the intended and unintended consequences of using this emergent tech-
nology in policing remain unclear” (Ariel, Sutherland, Henstock, Young &
Sosinski, 2018, p. 2). Despite rapid and accelerating adoption of BWCs in the
United States (Lum, Rosenbaum, et al., 2015; Wasserman, 2014), too little
academic research has yet been done, and all extant studies recommend further
research (Ariel, Sutherland, Henstock, Young, Drover, et al., 2018; Cubitt,
Lesic, Myers & Corry, 2017; Drover & Ariel, 2015; White, 2014).
Furthermore, no study to date has addressed the potential effect of BWCs on
the off‌icers who wear them, despite evidence from earlier workplace monitoring
literature suggesting the possibility of adverse effects of workplace surveillance
technology (Alge, 2001; Anomneze, Ugwu, Enwereuzor, & Ugwu, 2016; Ariss,
2002; Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002; Silverman & Smith, 1995; Smith,
Carayon, Sanders, Lim & LeGrande, 1992). While some recent studies explore
off‌icer attitudes toward BWCs, none examine the effect of wearing BWCs on
off‌icers themselves. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), we investigate
the impact BWCs may have on off‌icers.
Review of the Literature
Despite calls for greater reliance on evidence-based practices (Sherman, 2013,
2015; Willis & Mastrofski, 2016), police departments increasingly adopt BWCs
across the United States and worldwide, without a full understanding of their
effectiveness, much less the effects on off‌icers themselves (Mateescu, Rosenblat,
& Boyd, 2015). Even after President Obama provided $75 million in federal
grants for police agencies to purchase BWCs in 2015, researchers are only
now exploring the intentional and unintentional effects of this new technology
on policing (Lum, Rosenbaum, et al., 2015). Overall, results from published
research on the effects of BWCs are mixed (White, Gaub, & Todak, 2017), as
seen in Table 1.
Mixed results may be due, at least in part, to BWC research occurring in a
post hoc manner following implementation using a range of methods (Cubitt,
et al., 2017), or varying implementation across sites (Ariel et al., 2016b). In
addition, much of the BWC research focuses on use of force, despite evidence
that use of force represents less than 1% of police–public interactions (Lersch &
Mieczkowski, 2005). What is more, no previous research has examined the
6Police Quarterly 22(1)

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