Do Body Cameras Make Officers More Likely To Use Force?

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Bodycams used by West Midlands (UK) Police. Photo courtesy west midlands police via Flickr

After high-profile police shootings, the Obama administration encouraged police departments to equip their officers with body-worn cameras. A new study by Temple University researchers, however, suggests that the wearable video cameras may not lead to fewer police shootings of civilians, but may actually make officers more likely to use lethal force, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Those are findings from a working paper by Min-Seok Pang and Paul Pavlou of Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The scholars, who research the impact of information technology on organizations, drew heavily on the Washington Post’s tally of fatal police shootings in 2015 (986 deaths in total), among other national datasets. They wrote, “Surprisingly, we found that the use of wearable video cameras is associated with a 3.64% increase in shooting-deaths of civilians by the police.” The authors said video recordings collected during a violent encounter with a civilian can be used in favor of a police officer as evidence that justifies the shooting. Aware of this evidence, the officer may become less reluctant to engage in the use of deadly force. The authors found that body cameras were associated with a larger increase in shooting deaths of African Americans and Hispanics than whites and Asians.


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