Study: Police body cams have little effect on behavior

A recent study of the police department in the nation’s capital found that an officer’s use of a body camera has little effect on his or her behavior.

Researchers conducted an 18-month study, comparing the behavior of 1,000 officers equipped with cameras, with 1,000 officers without cameras.  The study found little difference between the two groups when it came to the use of force, civilian complaints and a prosecutor’s decision to charge a case.
95 percent of police departments nationwide now use body cameras including most law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area. 

Frank Zimring, a professor at UC Berkeley and author of the book “When Police Kill,” pointed out that the study out of Washington D.C. did not address the use of lethal force.

“What we don't know is how it affects behavior at the deep end and that's what has been motivating body cameras to go on police officers in the first place,” Zimring said.  Zimring’s own research found that the use of video footage, (whether from body cameras or other sources) increased criminal prosecutions of officers by six times, in cases where a suspect was killed.

Local civil rights leaders expressed support for body cameras, saying they provide a needed sense of accountability.

“Any tool that we can use to level the field of justice, we need to use it,” George Holland, Sr., president of the Oakland chapter of the N.A.A.C.P.

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