Activation of Body-Worn Cameras: Variation by Officer, Over Time, and by Policing Activity

Journal Article

Activation of Body-Worn Cameras: Variation by Officer, Over Time, and by Policing Activity

Abstract

This study assessed the early deployment of the Anaheim Police Department’s body-worn camera (BWC) program in 2015 by examining camera activations across officers, trends in activations over time, and how different police–community contacts predict BWC activations. These were assessed with correlational analyses among 40 BWC-equipped officers in the first 6 months of their use. Activation of the BWCs among officers varied widely, with 6-month average activations ranging from 0% to 72%. Average activation rates increased over time from 3% to 54%. Officers disproportionately activated their cameras for events related to crimes; for example, activation rates for other categories were significantly lower compared to violent crimes, with odds ratios ranging from 0.148 to 0.663. The article concludes with a discussion on how the failure to activate a BWC limits the potential benefits of the technology. While officers have considerable discretion on when to activate their BWCs, law enforcement agencies must not only train and deploy BWCs among their officers but also audit and supervise individual use to ensure successful BWC programs.

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