Published: Sat, October 21, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Body Cameras Didn't Change DC Officers' Behavior

Body Cameras Didn't Change DC Officers' Behavior

The D.C. research looked at a period where the police force was rolling out its body camera program - and some officers had the cameras while others were still waiting. The previous administration made it seem as if these cameras would fix the "problem" of police brutality, but of course, they have not. Body cameras similarly had little impact on the occurrence of citizen complaints.

The Metropolitan Police Department and applied scientists with the D.C. Office of the City Administrator measured the impact of body-worn cameras that 1,200 patrol officers and sergeants wore for about seven months across the city.

The company continued to delay the release date, so Chief Kral decided he couldn't wait any longer to have all officers equipped with body cameras. "There is no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all". "Perhaps", they write, "neither the officer nor citizen involved in an interaction are actually aware of the camera, either due to attention being diverted elsewhere or desensitization over time to the presence of the cameras".

"I think we're surprised by the result".

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Chief Newsham added that the behavior may not have changed because his officers "were doing the right thing in the first place". The African-American motorist was shot to death on September 11, 2016 when he was pulled over for driving erratically. The video was later released, showing graphic attempts of resuscitating Sterling. Neither officer was charged over the incident, though the MPD asked Trainer to resign. But the look by Washington's in-house research branch suggests otherwise - a finding that could shift the debate on one argument used to put the cameras in virtually every big city police department nationwide.

In 2015, the US Justice Department awarded over $23 million in funding to support the implementation of body cam programs, with 95 percent of larger police departments either implementing or intending to adopt the technology. It's a matter of training and getting used to the technology, the office said. "In addition, over the two decades prior to the introduction of BWCs, MPD has undertaken several reforms to reduce police misconduct".

But body cameras are costly. "However, the data are also consistent with real effect of BWCs being anywhere from a decrease of 671 arrests for disorderly conduct to an increase of 416 such arrests per 1,000 officers, per year".

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