During the "Black Lives Matter" portion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate last night, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the use of body-worn cameras on police officers. Good idea. Earlier research has found that requiring officers to wear cameras tends to reduce both police and citizen violence. In a new study by researchers at the University of South Florida, Orlando cops were randomly assigned to wear body cameras and followed for a year. The results of that study found that wearing the cameras did reduce violence. Fox News reported:
In the year before they wore body cameras, the officers used force an average of 3.5 times.
During the year after half of the officers started wearing body cameras, the use of force dropped more than 50 percent, from 3.5 to 1.6.
"The degree and nature of the decline was pretty considerable," said Wesley Jennings, Ph.D., one of the study's three authors.
The officers who did not wear cameras also had a drop in the use of force, from 3.5 to 2.2.
The number of officers who got complaints from the public saying they used too much force, dropped from .26 percent to .09 percent.
Jennings said cameras change the behavior of officers, and of those they encounter.
"Both know it is being recorded, and that the evidence is not going anywhere," said Jennings. "They are both less-inclined to escalate an event."
Jennings' team also surveyed the officers afterwards, and found that most were originally skeptical that wearing the devices would change their behavior, or the public's.
But after the year, the officers with cameras mostly wanted to keep them, while those without mostly wanted them.
"As a society, we can certainly advocate for agencies- law enforcement agencies- to adopt these body-worn cameras," said Jennings.
Yes. Back in 2013, I argued in my article, "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops," that all police should be required to wear cameras.
However, some police departments—here's looking at you LAPD—want to keep the video secret from the public. Such a policy undermines public trust and must not be allowed.