Research on Body Worn Cameras

Published date01 September 2016
Date01 September 2016
Subject MatterArticles
Research on Body
Worn Cameras:
Meeting the Challenges
of Police Operations,
Implementation, and
Randomized Controlled
Trial Designs
William H. Sousa
, James R. Coldren Jr.
Denise Rodriguez
Anthony A. Braga
As police departments across the United States equip officers with body worn cam-
eras (BWCs), research has focused on the technology’s impact on police interactions
with citizens, officer misconduct, officer use of force, and false allegations against
police. Given the large number of police agencies implementing BWCs across the
country (numbering in the thousands), there will be a growing number of opportu-
nities for BWC evaluations and expectations that these programs will be evaluated.
Studying the implementation of BWCs presents a number of challenges to both
researchers and police agencies, particularly when large police organizations are
involved. Drawing on our experiences involving a BWC experiment with the Las
Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, this article discusses the programmatic chal-
lenges of implementing a BWC program in a large agency (technical, political, and
Center for Crime and Justice Policy, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, USA
Safety and Security Division, CNA Institute for Public Research, Arlington, VA, USA
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
Corresponding Author:
William H. Sousa, Center for Crime and Justice Policy, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S.
Maryland Parkway, Box 5009, Las Vegas, NV 89154-5009, USA.
Police Quarterly
2016, Vol. 19(3) 363–384
!The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611116658595
administrative) while simultaneously evaluating the program using a randomized con-
trolled trial design.
body worn camera, randomized controlled trial
This article describes a randomized controlled trial (RCT) designed to study
the impact of body worn cameras (BWCs) on police of‌f‌icer behavior in the
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), a large police agency
with approximately 1,100 police of‌f‌icers assigned to the patrol division. We
discuss the process evaluation component of a National Institute of Justice-
funded research project that entailed both process and impact evaluation
The implementation of BWCs grows at a rapid pace in American police
agencies. In Fall 2015, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Of‌f‌ice
of Justice Programs (OJP) distributed over $19 million in funding to 73 U.S.
police agencies for the purposes of enhancing or implementing BWC pro-
grams (BJA, 2016a). This funding initiative is part of a 3-year plan of the
White House and the U.S. Department of Justice (2015) to provide over $70
million to police agencies for the implementation of 50,000 BWCs. In May
2015, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that at least 30
states were considering legislation regarding BWCs, with one-half of them
requiring or recommending the use of BWCs by police (BJA, 2016b). BJA
reports that 4,000 to 6,000 U.S. police agencies have implemented or plan to
implement BWCs (BJA, 2016b).
This anticipated growth in the utilization of BWCs by police brings with it the
expectation and need for basic and applied research regarding the implementa-
tion and use of this technology by police, and regarding the impact of the tech-
nology on police of‌f‌icers, police agencies, civilians, and society in general. The
process evaluation reported in this article addresses the need for applied research
regarding BWCs and may be helpful to researchers and practitioners by provid-
ing information about the challenges encountered when implementing and
studying BWCs in a large police agency, building on Drover and Ariel (2015)
who discuss similar issues regarding BWC experiments. First, we brief‌ly discuss
background on BWCs, BWC implementation, and the RCT methodology.
We then describe the LVMPD BWC experiment while highlighting several
important implementation challenges encountered by the LVMPD and the
research team, including both the challenges of RCTs and the challenges of
BWC implementation in a large police agency. Finally, we discuss how some
of these challenges were overcome and how some still remain.
364 Police Quarterly 19(3)

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT