National Police Foundation hosts conference on police body-worn cameras

Dr. Cynthia Lum, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University and National Police Foundation Board Member, provides an overview of current research findings on police body-worn cameras.

The National Police Foundation (NPF) recently hosted a one-day conference: “Police Body Cameras: What Have We Learned Over 10 Years of Deployment?” The purpose of the conference was to share police body-worn camera research findings with practitioners, as well as to hear directly from practitioners whose agencies have deployed the technology and what challenges and opportunities body cameras bring to their agencies and communities.

The conference featured several presentations from researchers, including a presentation by Dr. Cynthia Lum, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University, on an overview of current police body camera literature and findings. In addition, Sean Goodison, Police Executive Research Forum, Daniel Lawrence, Urban Institute, and Kalani Johnson, National Police Foundation, presented on findings from three recent Arnold Ventures studies that have examined how body cameras affect citizen satisfaction with police encounters and implications for law enforcement. David Makin, Washington State University, also presented on whether BWCs capture a true picture of events, providing an overview of research synthesized by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics lab, which has shown that different people view body camera recordings in idiosyncratic ways and that reliance on video recordings may not provide a full or accurate presentation of an event.

Two panel discussions were also held. The first explored whether body cameras change the way officers approach their jobs. Wendy Koslicki (Ball State University), Dr. Carolyn Naoroz (Richmond Police Department), Deputy Chief Shon Barnes (Salisbury Police Department), and Mr. Sean Smoot (IPPFA) discussed the different ways that body cameras have affected their agencies. They answered questions on whether body cameras make a difference in how patrol officers perform their jobs or interact with the public, how body cameras are being used to monitor officer performance, their opinions on whether the added scrutiny has encouraged de-policing, and how body cameras are being used by trainers.

The second panel discussed benefits vs. costs of body-worn cameras. Chip Coldren (CAN), Commander Ralph Ennis (DC Metro), Chief Tom Manger (Ret.) and Chief Mike Brown (Alexandria Police Department) reflected on how many agencies have been surprised by the “back-end” cost of body cameras in terms of storage requirements and staff involvement in reviewing and redacting recordings for prosecutors, the media, and the public. They discussed if these costs are offset by enhanced accountability, less use of force, and other significant benefits.

A report on the conference with a synthesis of the presentations and panel discussions is forthcoming and will be published on the National Police Foundation website.

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