In a research paper released recently by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing, a team of public safety experts and world economists say body-worn cameras are both beneficial and cost effective, reports NPR.
Findings show the key benefit of body-worn cameras is the reduced use of police force. For example, among the police departments studied, complaints against police dropped by 17 percent and the use of force by police, during fatal and non-fatal encounters, fell by nearly 10 percent. In 2013, about a third of local law enforcement agencies, used some form of body-worn camera technology. By 2016, the number had grown to nearly 50 percent.
While law enforcement often cites finances as a barrier to adopting body-worn cameras, the researchers say the benefits to society and police departments outweigh the costs of the cameras. The price tag for police bodycams can be several thousands of dollars per officer, covering purchasing and maintaining the equipment, paying for storing the enormous amount of information the cameras can collect, and training officers.
But the cost is outweighed by the estimated savings generated by a reduction of citizen complaints and averted use of force incidents — along with the cost reductions that could come from fewer investigations, researchers said.
The researchers cautioned that their conclusions are limited since results are based on data from police departments that were the first to adopt the new technology.