In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Body-Worn Cameras and Policing

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Standalone Empirical Works
  • Officer Compliance with BWCs and Impacts on Reports
  • Organizational Effects
  • Costs and Benefits of BWCs

Criminology Body-Worn Cameras and Policing
Jacob Young, Audrey Puckett
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0289


Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are being deployed in police departments at unprecedented rates according to empirical research. In trying to catch up, research into the technology is now rapidly growing. Especially in the beginning, the technology presented various potential positives, such as increasing police legitimacy and accountability as well as aiding with reports. Research into BWCs is split into seven main themes: General Overviews, Standalone Empirical Works, Police-Citizen Interactions, Perceptions of BWCs, Officer Compliance with BWCs and Impacts on Reports, Organizational Effects, and Costs and Benefits of BWCs. To start, general overviews provides articles and reports which investigate the literature as a whole and identify common themes. Many of these articles entail extensive literature reviews. Standalone Empirical Works includes research that approaches BWCs from new angles and perspectives. The sections Police-Citizen Interactions and Perceptions of BWCs have received the largest amount of attention. Police-Citizen Interactions includes material that examines how BWCs influence citizen cooperation or compliance with the police, citizen complaints of the police, reports of police use of force, and use of procedural justice. Perceptions of BWCs includes research on attitudes held by both citizens and police, though the majority of articles investigate officer beliefs. Officer Compliance with BWCs and Impacts on Reports examines how the beliefs of officers impact usage and subsequent use of footage. Then the article moves into examining how BWCs and organizations reciprocally impact each other. The article ends with presenting reports and articles that weigh the costs and benefits of deploying BWCs.

General Overviews

Although the implementation of BWCs is fairly recent, a large number of publications provide research into their impact. Works in this section take a more global look at what has been done with BWCs. Alpert and McLean 2018 provides a brief critique of the underline purpose of the technology. Cubitt, et al. 2017 presents a systematic review of research on the effectiveness of BWCs, highlighting areas where methodology in this subject can be improved. White 2014 provides a fundamental literature review in BWC research. Beglau 2017 and Lum, et al. 2019 are more recent comprehensive overviews of all topics in research on BWCs. Maskaly, et al. 2017 reviews research into how BWCs have impacted police-citizen relations. Further, Piza 2018 is important as it compares and contrasts different police technologies, focusing on methodological and organizational issues. Finally, Schneider 2018 illustrates how BWCs are represented in the media.

  • Alpert, G. P., and K. McLean. 2018. Where is the goal line? A critical look at police body-worn camera programs. Criminology & Public Policy 17.3: 679–688.

    DOI: 10.1111/1745-9133.12374

    A brief (less than ten pages) overview of the benefits of video recordings for officers. Article asserts that no real goal has been set for the usage of BWCs. This concise overview serves as an excellent introduction to BWCs.

  • Cubitt, T. I., R. Lesic, G. L. Myers, and R. Corry. 2017. Body-worn video: A systematic review of literature. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 50.3: 379–396.

    DOI: 10.1177/0004865816638909

    Findings of a systematic review of literature testing the efficacy of BWCs. The results were inconsistent, owing to limited research and lack of more effective methodologies. Contains easy-to-follow figures of the authors’ method for the review as well as tables of the findings from the articles included (pp. 383–386).

  • Beglau, Drew A. 2017. The use and implementation of body-worn cameras in policing. Univ. honors thesis, no. 407. Portland State Univ.

    Compares and analyzes past research over BWCs. The findings highlight common themes that surface throughout the literature. The themes include privacy and cost implications, pilot project studies, the reduction of use of force and citizen complaints, officer and public perceptions, and resolving false complaint issues. This work highlights both the positives and the negatives of implementing BWCs as well as recommendations for those considering the technology.

  • Lum, C., M. Stoltz, C. S. Koper, and J. A. Scherer. 2019. Research on body‐worn cameras: What we know, what we need to know. Criminology & Public Policy 18.1: 93–118.

    DOI: 10.1111/1745-9133.12412

    A comprehensive overview of BWC research. The articles included in the review are both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed works. Table 1 (pp. 6–7) provides a guide to what the reviewed articles discuss. This article best depicts heavily researched areas as well as where further research is needed.

  • Maskaly, J., C. Donner, W. G. Jennings, B. Ariel, and A. Sutherland. 2017. The effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police and citizen outcomes: A state-of-the-art review. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 40.4: 672–688.

    DOI: 10.1108/PIJPSM-03-2017-0032

    Review of twenty-one articles that focus on the impacts of BWCs on the police and citizens. Table 1 (pp. 674–680) provides an overview of the articles included. The findings from the present research support BWCs.

  • Piza, E. L. 2018. The history, policy implications, and knowledge gaps of the CCTV literature: Insights for the development of body-worn video camera research. International Criminal Justice Review 1–21.

    DOI: 10.1177/1057567718759583

    Compares and contrasts research carried out on closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) and BWCs (referred to as BWVC in the article). The comparison is used to highlight the strengths and weaknesses in the research of both technologies as well as to guide future research. The author focuses on methodological and organizational issues in regard to these technologies.

  • Schneider, C. J. 2018. Body worn cameras and police image work: News media coverage of the Rialto Police Department’s body worn camera experiment. Crime, Media, Culture 14.3: 449–466.

    DOI: 10.1177/1741659017721591

    An overview of how BWCs are discussed and perceived by the media. The article also highlights the optimism in reporting on BWCs by the media while also underlining the shortage of research investigating the effectiveness of BWCs.

  • White, M. D. 2014. Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing the evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

    Could be considered the original literature review on BWCs. The report details findings from the perceived benefits and concerns of BWCs. This report would serve as an excellent resource when creating a literature review, especially in comparing what was known in the early years against what is currently known.

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