Forming Better Police-Community Connections: Body Worn Cameras

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross demonstrating a camera.

Research Team

Project Overview

We are currently working on three randomized evaluations of programs that study the effects of equipping officers with body-worn cameras. These projects are ongoing with the Boston Police Department, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the New York Police Department.

The preliminary findings in the Boston study suggest that the placement of body worn cameras on Boston Police officers may generate small benefits to the civility of police-citizen civilian encounters. Officers wearing the cameras received fewer citizen complaints and generated fewer use of force reports compared to a randomized comparison group of officers.

The recently-completed Las Vegas study also suggests that body worn cameras do reduce citizen complaints and officer use of force incidents. However, the Las Vegas study also cautions that body worn cameras may reduce officer discretion when making arrests and issuing citations.

The New York City randomized evaluation is being conducted as part of the remedies required by the federal district court in the stop, question, and frisk settlement. The New York City Police Department is currently collaborating with the federal monitor to evaluate whether the benefits of the body-worn cameras outweigh their financial, administrative, and other costs.  Anthony Braga and John MacDonald are members of the federal monitor team.

Boston Project:

Research Team: Anthony Braga, Lisa Barao, Jack McDevitt, Greg Zimmerman

Las Vegas Project:

Research Team: Anthony Braga, William H. Sousa, James R. Coldren, Jr., Denise Rodriguez

New York Project:

Research Team: Anthony Braga, John MacDonald