A new study from the University of South Florida indicates that body-worn cameras on law enforcement officers are an effective tool in reducing the number of use of force incidents.
USF researchers partnered with the Orlando Police Department for the year-long study. Between March 2014 and February 2015, 46 officers were randomly selected to wear the cameras while 43 other officers in the study did not.
“And from what we found by comparing these two groups were that the officers who were randomly assigned to wear the body-worn cameras had significantly less use of force and significantly less external citizen generated complaints relative to the officers that did not wear the cameras,” said lead investigator Wesley Jennings.
The number of response-to-resistance incidents among officers wearing the cameras declined 53% compared to the year before the study and that the number of complaints filed against the officers dropped 65%. Jennings, who is also associate chair of USF’s Department of Criminology said the officers’ were initially skeptical that the cameras would impact their own behavior or citizen behavior, but that after the study, that perception changed.
“Most of the officers like the cameras,” said Jennings. “They wanted to keep the cameras beyond the study and they reported their behavior did change and citizen behavior improved as well as far as, they specifically reported the utility of the cameras in deescalating confrontations between them and the citizens in the community.”
Jennings said the results could further bolster interest in body cameras among law enforcement agencies and the public. “It’s pretty demonstrable evidence that these devices significantly reduce negative citizen encounters in that sense,” said Jennings. “So, agencies and communities and municipalities would be prudent to consider avenues and methods of getting financial support, the federal government and grants, in order to acquire these devices.”
President Obama has proposed allocating $75 million to help law enforcement agencies purchase body cameras. The Cape Coral Police Department began outfitting officers with body cameras this past spring. The City of Sarasota Police Department and the Fort Myers Police Department have shown interest in the cameras, but have so far postponed using them.