Body cameras have no effect on use of police force

Police Chief Jerry Mitchell says it's always only been a question of when - not if - officers will begin using them.

The study followed more than 2,000 police officers in Washington who were equipped with cameras over an 18-month period.

Perhaps, he says, that is because his officers "were doing the right thing in the first place".

"We need science, rather than our speculations about it, to try to answer and understand what impacts the cameras are having", says David Yokum, director of the Lab @ DC.

"Police departments have been rushing to body cameras without sufficiently deciding what the goal is", said Seth Stoughton, a former officer and a law professor at the University of SC. By 2015, 95 percent of large police departments were using them, the article explained. "Particularly for officers - and this is the exception - who might be more inclined to misbehave". Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said the public rarely sees body camera footage in the state of Minnesota because of data privacy laws. Besides buying the actual cameras, cash-strapped police departments have to pay to store and manage many thousands of hours of video footage.

In every outcome measured, the body-worn cameras showed no detectable effect on the use of force, civilian complaints, or disorderly conduct between those who wore the cameras and those who did not. A body camera can be used to help either exonerate an officer or confirm officer misconduct when a complaint is filed.

Another possibility is that use-of-force issues before body cameras were employed went largely unreported, and declined after cameras were added. There also wasn't a significant effect on prosecutions in courts between the arresting officers who wore the cameras and those who didn't. The video was later released, showing graphic attempts of resuscitating Sterling.

"I think it's really important for legitimacy for the police department", says Newsham, "when we say something to be able to back it up with a real-world view that others can see".

Vanessa Coleman