Study Finds Body Cameras Are Effective in Holding Police Accountable

Study Finds Body Cameras Are Effective in Holding Police Accountable
For immediate release: with photo
July 27, 2021

 

Galloway, N.J. – Body cameras are effective in holding police accountable according to a new study by researchers at Stockton University, American University and Georgia State University.

The study of police complaints in Chicago found that body camera video decreased the number of investigations dismissed for insufficient evidence and increased the number of disciplinary actions against police officers. The working paper was recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Stockton University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Nusret Sahin, one of the lead authors on the study, said the results are valuable for New Jersey, where all police officers are now mandated to wear body cams. Legislation was introduced in June that would allow New Jersey police officers to review body-camera footage before writing up a report of an incident.

The study reviewed citizen compliant data from the Chicago Police Department and Civilian Office of Police Accountability filed between 2012-2020.

“We wanted to determine if video from the body-worn camera (BMC) affects the conclusion of the investigation, and whether bias against complainants based on race would be reduced,” Sahin said.

The findings indicate that BWCs led to a significant decrease in the dismissal of investigations due to insufficient evidence (“not sustained”) as well as a significant increase in disciplinary actions against police officers (“sustained” outcomes”) with sufficient evidence to sanction their misconduct.

The study also found that disparities in complaints across racial groups for the “unsustained” category fade away with the implementation of BWCs.

Sahin, who also trains police in procedural justice techniques, said the goal of his work is to improve relationships and trust between police and the community. He has worked with police in Atlantic City and Pleasantville.

“We have found that when a person understands the process, and believes it is fair, they are more likely to accept the results, even if it is not always in their favor.” Sahin said. “Our findings indicate that BWCs strengthen accountability if footage from these devices is utilized effectively in internal investigations.”

Sahin worked on the paper with Suat Cubukcu and Erdal Tekin at American University and Volkan Topalli at Georgia State University. The full paper, “Body-Worn Cameras and Adjudication of Citizen Complaints of Police Misconduct,”  is online at: (https://www.nber.org/papers/w29019?utm_campaign=ntwh&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ntwg8)

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