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Body Worn Cameras: Research Underway at NIJ
Body worn camera technology has been at the forefront of the national discussion on policing. NIJ Director Nancy Rodriguez discusses how there is currently little science-based guidance to help for law enforcement officials decide whether and how to use body worn cameras in their jurisdictions. Rodriguez highlights how NIJ is supporting research, including projects in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, to evaluate the use and impact of body worn cameras.
As a scientist, I think it’s important to emphasize that technology like body-worn cameras continues to evolve, and that is why it is so important to ensure that the science hat we support and create to understand what body-worn camera technology means also continues to evolve. That is one of the reasons I am particularly excited about NIJ’s continuing collaboration with COPS and our sister agencies, BJA and BJS, in understanding what body-worn cameras means, not only to law enforcement officials throughout the country or the line officers in the field, but also for the citizens who rely heavily on the services and the protection of law enforcement in this country.
To date, there is very limited research to inform law enforcement executives and other officials on whether and how body-worn cameras should be implemented in their respective departments. That said, there are a host of issues that practitioners in the field are already considering with regard to the technology. For example, what is the battery life? How durable is the unit? What is the data storage capacity of the respective systems? Along with a host of other performance characteristics associated with the audio and video quality of the units.
In 2012, NIJ published the Primer on Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement. This is, in essence, an introduction into body-worn camera systems. This particular resource highlights the functions and features of various units, as well as presents some important information for officials to consider before and during the implementation of body-worn cameras.
NIJ supported two studies in this particular area. The first we funded in 2013 is looking at the impact of body-worn cameras in the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. researchers from CNA Corporation are looking at the implementation of body-worn cameras in the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. These researchers are looking at a host of indicators, including how body-worn cameras are impacting police and citizen encounters, as well as how they’re adhering to departmental policy. Researchers are also going to provide us with an important array of scientific evidence in this area, because they are looking closely at the use of body-worn cameras by 400 police officers.
NIJ, in 2014, funded the Los Angeles Police Foundation’s effort to look at the impact of body-worn camera technology in the L.A. Police Department. This particular study is going to be looking at a host of overarching topics—for example, the use of body-worn video technology, privacy concerns, police legitimacy, along with crime-reduction efforts—and are using some pretty sophisticated advanced analytics. What’s exciting about this study is they are relying on a wide range of data sources, including police-citizen encounters, use of force, and crime reduction. The researchers are also going to be surveying law enforcement officials, as well as interviewing citizens in the community. NIJ will continue to provide updates as these research projects evolve.
Folks can visit the NIJ website and type in the keywords “body-worn cameras.”
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.