Police Officer and Supervisor Perceptions of Body-Worn Cameras Pre- and Postimplementation: The Importance of Officer Buy-in

Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Police Officer and Supervisor
Perceptions of Body-Worn
Cameras Pre- and
The Importance of Officer Buy-in
Jamie A. Snyder
, Matthew S. Crow
, and John Ortiz Smykla
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are increasingly more common in their use among police officers.
Research on BWCs is the focus of an increasing number of studies seeking information on stake-
holder perceptions and the impact of the technology on behavior and other related outcomes.
Although the emerging research is mixed, several studies find that officers have concerns about the
use of BWCs and may not fully support their use. The current study utilizes survey data from two
Southern police departments. Police officers and supervisors were surveyed on their perceptions of
BWCs prior to the implementation of BWCs, then again after their implementation. The analysis
focuses on changes in perceptions before and after BWC implementation and examines the impact
of respondent rank on perceptions. Overall, perceptions became more positive toward BWCs after
the implementation; however, differences emerged when considering rank. Respondents at the
supervisor rank expressed significantly less concern and more support for BWCs than those at the
officer level after implementation. These results are discussed in the context of the importance of
officer support and buy-in for BWCs. Policy suggestions and future directions are also discussed.
law enforcement/security, police culture/accountability, police processes
Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) are sweeping the country and becoming standard equipment for
police officers. In 2016, 93%of 70 major city police chiefs and county sheriffs indicated that they
are either using or plan to use BWCs in the near future (Lafayette Group, 2015). Additionally, the
Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL, USA
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jamie A. Snyder, Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, University of Wyoming, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie,
WY 82072, USA.
Email: jsnyde29@uwyo.edu
Criminal Justice Review
2019, Vol. 44(3) 322-338
ª2019 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819846223
Bureau of Justice Assistance (2016) reported that between 4,000 and 6,000 police and sheriff
departments across the United States either use BWCs or indicated they plan to use them. Consid-
ering this proliferation in BWC interest, a growing body of research is being devoted to examining
police BWCs. Studies to date focus largely on outcomes of using BWCs, such as changes in use of
force, effects on evidence collection, crime reporting, reduction in citizen complaints, and impacts
on prosecution and case processing (Ariel, 2016; Ariel et al., 2017; Ariel, Farrar, & Sutherland,
2015; Bellin & Pemberton, 2018; Fan, 2016; Hedberg, Katz, & Choate, 2017; Jennings, Lynch, &
Fridell, 2015; Katz, Choate, Ready, & Nuno, 2014; Morrow, Katz, & Choate, 2016; White, Gaub, &
Todak, 2017). Fewer studies have examined specific community and general public perceptions of
BWCs (Crow, Snyder, Crichlow, & Smykla, 2017; Culhane, Boman, & Schweitzer, 2016; Demir,
2018; Lawrence, Peterson, & Thompson, 2018; Sousa, Miethe, & Sakiyama, 2017; White, Todak, &
Gaub, 2017), the challenges of imp lementing a BWC program (Sousa, Co ldren, Rodriguez, &
Braga, 2016), or detainees’ perceptions of the capacities of BWCs to deliver promised increased
levels of accountability in policing (Lee, Taylor, & Willis, 2018).
One of the more frequently researched BWC topics is officers’ attitudes toward BWCs (Lum,
Stoltz, Koper, & Scherer, 2019). A number of studies examine officer opinions generally (Goetschel
& Peha, 2017; Gramagila & Phillips, 2017; Jennings, Fridell, & Lynch, 2014; Katz et al., 2014),
while others compare officer perceptions pre- and postdeployment of cameras (Guab, Choate,
Todak, Katz, & White, 2016; Pelfrey & Keener, 2018; White, Todak, & Gaub, 2018). While it is
vital to understand the potential impact of BWCs on actions such as use of force and court outcomes
and the concerns that officers have with BWCs (White, 2014), it is also important to gain a better
understanding of the perceptions of officers across different ranks, something that heretofore has
been rarely reported in the body of BWC research. Successful implementation of a BWC program is
likely to be influenced by the perceptions and acceptance of both officers and supervisors, as both
expectations for how BWCs will impact police work and experiences using the technology are likely
to differ across rank. Most of the prior research has examined either officer perceptions (Gramagila
& Phillips, 2017; Jennings et al., 2014; Lum et al., 2019) or leadership perceptions (Smykla, Crow,
Crichlow, & Snyder, 2016) separately. Only one study could be located (Pelfrey & Keener, 2018)
that examined both officer and supervisor perceptions within a campus police department before
implementation and examined how perceptions changed postimplementation. The differences in
perceptions were examined via focus groups with each officer type but did not include quantitative
analysis by rank (Pelfrey & Keener, 2018).
The current study seeks to contribute to the literature on BWCs by examining both officer and
supervisor perceptions of BWCs both pre- and postdeployment. Specifically, officers and super-
visors in two Southern municipal police departments were surveyed on their perceptions approxi-
mately 6 months prior to full BWC deployment and again approximately 6 months after full
Literature Review
Perceptions of BWCs by Police
Previous studies on officer perceptions have found generally positive views of the potential benefits
of BWCs (Lum et al., 2019). For example, an early analysis of officer perceptions by Jennings,
Fridell, and Lynch (2014) reported that over half of officers surveyed in Orlando indicated support
for the use of BWCs. Similar levels of support were also found among a sample of police in
leadership positions across multiple agencies in one Southern state (Smykla et al., 2016). In these
and other studies, officers appear to have optimistic views regarding the potential effects of BWCs
on several outcomes. Examples include evidence collection, improvements in citizens’ behavior,
Snyder et al. 323

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