BWC Research and Policy

A recent report published by Dr. Barak Ariel et al., and now posted on the BJA Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Toolkit website (https://www.bja.gov/bwc/pdfs/BWC-Report.pdf), is already being used by some to question the efficacy of body-worn cameras and the need to implement a program. I urge everyone to read this report carefully especially the Discussion and Conclusions section.

A solid BWC policy on activation should start from a position that the camera will always be turned on during all police-citizen encounters and should only be deactivated under very specific circumstances outlined in policy. Furthermore, officers should always advise citizens that they are being recorded as early in the encounter when it is safe and practical to do so. Early activation minimizes the need to activate during escalating, aggressive, encounters and can potentially act as a de-escalation technique.

Policy without policy enforcement is not a policy. A process to ensure BWC policy compliance is an essential component to verify that cameras are being used as outlined in an agency’s policy. This process must take into account exceptions to policy that have to exist to address investigative, administrative, privacy and sensitive situations.

Taking these basic steps will minimize the number of instances where officers will find themselves under circumstances described in the Discussion and Conclusions section. Every piece of research being done on BWCs adds to our understanding and conversations on this evolving technology. Police executives should be educated consumers of all research to assist them in implementing an effective BWC program.