Keeping Up on Body Camera News and Studies


Dash & Body Cameras: October 2016

Dash & Body Cameras: September 2016

Justice Department Announces $20M For Police Body Cameras. September 26, 2016.  The Justice Department announced its awarding more than $20 million for law enforcement agencies around the country to establish or enhance their use of body cameras, a move that comes after several fatal shootings of black men by police that have prompted widespread protests SEE MORE ARTICLES

Use Of Body Cams Questioned After Charlotte Police Killings.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2016. BY EMERY P. DALESIO, JONATHAN DREW AND MEG KINNARD Associated Press. CHARLOTTE, N.C.  The fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer in Charlotte is only the latest shooting to raise questions about how the department uses body cameras. Six people were fatally shot since body cameras were given to all patrol officers about a year ago. But the officers who fired the fatal shots in five of those cases — including Keith Lamont Scott’s — weren’t using the cameras. The weekend release of police footage showing the shooting of Scott did little to ease some residents’ concerns about its handling. More than 100 people jammed City Council chambers Monday night to voice their frustrations, calling for Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Police Chief Kerr Putney to resign. “We have no reason to trust you, and you’re giving us even less,” Khasha Harris said at the forum. “Deep down somewhere, your conscience has to be bothering you.”

DC police body cam policy altered after deadly shooting goes unrecorded; officers must now confirm with dispatch that they have turned their cameras on.

Body cameras for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia were already required to be turned on by officers responding to calls and encountering citizens, but a new amendment to the policy was just added following an unrecorded fatal police shooting of a motorcyclist. Under the new policy that Metropolitan officers must confirm with dispatch that they have turned their cameras according to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Cop Body Cam Footage Shows Fatal Shooting During Knife Standoff (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

Body Cam Footage of Houston Police-Involved Shooting Released (GRAPHIC VIDEO)


January 18, 2016.

  1. Body cameras reduce tensions. Did you know that 60% of Americans believe community and police tensions would be reduced if officers wore body cameras? This positive statistic was uncovered in the Reveal 2015 Policing Perspectives Report, conducted by YouGov. This means that over half of your community would immediately have an improved perception of their relationship to your department simply with the introduction of body cameras.
  2. Body cameras make officers more efficient. Being able to capture video and audio evidence will alone save an officer’s time transcribing detailed notes about every incident they come across – up to 22% of their shift said the UK’s Home Office. The technology’s hand in deescalating aggressive encounters also leads to quicker resolution, allowing officers to be more available to help other members of the public. Furthermore, digital video evidence is very powerful and can make the justice system as a whole more efficient, saving money and keeping officers out of court. An increased visibility and availability encourages contact, which is helpful when building trust with the community.
  3. Body cameras reduce use of force incidentsA study with the Rialto Police Department found a 50% decrease in use of force incidents as a result of body cameras having an impact on the behaviour of both the officer and the public. Reveal customers around the world have shown Rialto is not alone and that the front facing screen on their body cameras enhances the deterrent nature of the technology, having a profound effect on interactions with the public.

Police Departments Shelve Body Cameras, Cite Data Costs

September 10, 2016 By RICK CALLAHAN – Associated Press. Police departments in at least two states that outfitted their officers with body cameras have now shelved them, blaming new laws requiring videos to be stored longer, which they say would significantly increase the cost. About a third of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies are either testing body cameras or have embraced them to record their officers’ interactions with the public. But departments in Indiana and Connecticut suspended their programs this year after their states imposed considerably longer video-storage rules. Clarksville, a southern Indiana town just north of Louisville, Kentucky, began using body cameras in 2012 for its 50 full-time officers and 25 reservists. That program ended in late June when Chief Mark Palmer pulled the cameras in response to Indiana’s new law requiring agencies using the cameras to store the videos for at least 190 days. Palmer said his department’s video storage and camera maintenance costs had been between $5,000 and $10,000 a year under its 30-day video storage policy. But the new law that took effect July 1 would have raised those costs to $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year, he said, by requiring videos to be stored more than six times longer.

 Body cams don’t work if they’re not on 

August 4, 2016. A spate of officer-involved shootings highlight concerns over the use of body cameras as a way to increase accountability. (CNN) A cop in the nation’s third-largest city fatally shot a black teenager in the back after a police chase through Chicago’s South Side. The body camera worn by the Chicago police officer failed to record the shooting of Paul O’Neal. The 18-year-old was suspected of stealing a car that struck the officer’s vehicle during the chase late last week, according to police. Whether the crash affected the camera’s ability to record is under investigation, police said. Investigators are also looking into whether the officer had turned it on. Three officers have been stripped of their police powers. The department’s body-camera policy explicitly states what incidents must be filmed. “Policies are only as good as the disciplinary procedures,” said Harlan Yu, a principal at Upturn, which provides Internet expertise for policymakers on a range of social issues.  While some police agencies are skeptical and many officers do not like the idea, citizens seem to overwhelmingly support them (see Poll: 92% of Tennesseans support requiring police to use body cameras,) and more departments are adopting them (see police body cameras go department-wide in Waukegan)

Poll Results: Cops speak out about body cameras

Even as body camera sales rise, decision-makers are hesitant about what this means for their agency and law enforcement as a wholeBy PoliceOne Staff  Nov 12, 2014. Body cameras have been a slowly developing trend in the law enforcement community for the last several years, but interest in the technology has skyrocketed in recent months, after the high-profile officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo. had officers and civilians alike asking: What if Officer Wilson’s body camera had been turned on?  Like any trend that threatens to change the protocols and policies in law enforcement, police chiefs and decision-makers are hesitant to jump on the body camera bandwagon. After all, new technology means new costs, new training, new policies, and unforseen problems that only trial and error can expose. But is it worth it?

Do Body Cams Reduce Violence? Investigating the Effects of Body-Worn Police Cameras

Rand Study – May 17, 2016.  Preliminary results from eight UK and US police forces reveal rates of assault against officers are 15% higher when they use body-worn cameras. The latest findings, from one of the largest randomized-controlled trials in criminal justice research, highlight the need for cameras to be kept on and recording at all stages of police-public interaction — not just when an individual officer deems it necessary — if police use-of-force and assaults against police are to be reduced. New evidence from the largest-yet series of experiments on use of body-worn cameras by police has revealed that rates of assault against police by members of the public actually increased when officers wore the cameras.

The research also found that on average across all officer-hours studied, and contrary to current thinking, the rate of use-of-force by police on citizens was unchanged by the presence of body-worn cameras, but a deeper analysis of the data showed that this finding varied depending on whether or not officers chose when to turn cameras on. If officers turned cameras on and off during their shift then use-of-force increased, whereas if they kept the cameras rolling for their whole shift, use-of-force decreased. The findings were released on May 17, 2106 in across two articles published in the European Journal of Criminology and the Journal of Experimental Criminology.

While researchers describe these findings as unexpected, they also urge caution as the work is ongoing, and say these early results demand further scrutiny. However, gathering evidence for what works in policing is vital, they say. “At present, there is a worldwide uncontrolled social experiment taking place — underpinned by feverish public debate and billions of dollars of government expenditure. Robust evidence is only just keeping pace with the adoption of new technology,” write criminologists from the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, who conducted the study.


  • Over the ten trials, rates of assault against officers wearing cameras on their shift were an average of 15% higher, compared to shifts without cameras.
  • This could be due to officers feeling more able to report assaults once they are captured on camera — providing them the impetus and/or confidence to do so. The monitoring by camera also may make officers less assertive and more vulnerable to assault.
  • On average across all officer-hours studied, the rate of use-of-force by police on citizens was unchanged by the presence of body-worn cameras.
  • However, this varied depending on whether or not officers chose when to turn cameras on. If officers turned cameras on and off during their shift then use-of-force increased, whereas if they kept the cameras rolling for their whole shift, use-of-force decreased.

Destroying Myths & Discovering Cold Facts

with Force Science Institute

10 limitations of body cams you need to know for your protection – A special report from the Force Science Institute

Sep 23, 2014. The idea is building that once every cop is equipped with a body camera, the controversy will be taken out of police shootings and other uses of force because “what really happened” will be captured on video for all to see. Well, to borrow the title from an old Gershwin tune, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

There’s no doubt that body cameras  —  like dash cams, cell phone cams, and surveillance cams  —  can provide a unique perspective on police encounters and, in most cases, are likely to help officers. But like those other devices, a camera mounted on your uniform or on your head has limitations that need to be understood and considered when evaluating the images they record.

“Rushing to condemn an officer for inappropriate behavior based solely on body-camera evidence can be a dicey proposition,” cautions Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute. “Certainly, a camera can provide more information about what happened on the street. But it can’t necessarily provide all the information needed to make a fair and impartial final judgment. There still may be influential human factors involved, apart from what the camera sees.”

In a recent conversation with Force Science News, Lewinski enumerated 10 limitations that are important to keep in mind regarding body-camera evidence (and, for the most part, recordings from other cameras as well) if you are an investigator, a police attorney, a force reviewer, or an involved officer. This information may also be helpful in efforts to educate your community.

(Some of these points are elaborated on in greater depth during the Force Science Certification Course. Visit for information on the course. An earlier report on body cam limitations appeared in Force Science News #145, sent 3/12/10. You will find online it at:

  1. A camera doesn’t follow your eyes or see as they see. 
    At the current level of development, a body camera is not an eye-tracker like FSI has used in some of its studies of officer attention. That complex apparatus can follow the movement of your eyes and superimpose on video small red circles that mark precisely where you are looking from one microsecond to the next.

“A body camera photographs a broad scene but it can’t document where within that scene you are looking at any given instant,” Lewinski says. “If you glance away from where the camera is concentrating, you may not see action within the camera frame that appears to be occurring ‘right before your eyes.’

“Likewise, the camera can’t acknowledge physiological and psychological phenomena that you may experience under high stress. As a survival mechanism, your brain may suppress some incoming visual images that seem unimportant in a life-threatening situation so you can completely focus very narrowly on the threat. You won’t be aware of what your brain is screening out.

“Your brain may also play visual tricks on you that the camera can’t match. If a suspect is driving a vehicle toward you, for example, it will seem to be closer, larger, and faster than it really is because of a phenomenon called ‘looming.’ Camera footage may not convey the same sense of threat that you experienced.

“In short, there can be a huge disconnect between your field of view and your visual perception and the camera’s. Later, someone reviewing what’s caught on camera and judging your actions could have a profoundly different sense of what happened than you had at the time it was occurring.”

  1. Some important danger cues can’t be recorded.
    “Tactile cues that are often important to officers in deciding to use force are difficult for cameras to capture,” Lewinski says. “Resistive tension is a prime example.

“You can usually tell when you touch a suspect whether he or she is going to resist. You may quickly apply force as a preemptive measure, but on camera it may look like you made an unprovoked attack, because the sensory cue you felt doesn’t record visually.”

And, of course, the camera can’t record the history and experience you bring to an encounter. “Suspect behavior that may appear innocuous on film to a naïve civilian can convey the risk of mortal danger to you as a streetwise officer,” Lewinski says. “For instance, an assaultive subject who brings his hands up may look to a civilian like he’s surrendering, but to you, based on past experience, that can be a very intimidating and combative movement, signaling his preparation for a fighting attack. The camera just captures the action, not your interpretation.”

  1. Camera speed differs from the speed of life.
    Because body cameras record at much higher speeds than typical convenience store or correctional facility security cameras, it’s less likely that important details will be lost in the millisecond gaps between frames, as sometimes happens with those cruder devices.

“But it’s still theoretically possible that something as brief as a muzzle flash or the glint of a knife blade that may become a factor in a use-of-force case could still fail to be recorded,” Lewinski says.

Of greater consequence, he believes, is the body camera’s depiction of action and reaction times.

“Because of the reactionary curve, an officer can be half a second or more behind the action as it unfolds on the screen,” Lewinski explains. “Whether he’s shooting or stopping shooting, his recognition, decision-making, and physical activation all take time — but obviously can’t be shown on camera.

“People who don’t understand this reactionary process won’t factor it in when viewing the footage. They’ll think the officer is keeping pace with the speed of the action as the camera records it. So without knowledgeable input, they aren’t likely to understand how an officer can unintentionally end up placing rounds in a suspect’s back or firing additional shots after a threat has ended.”

  1. A camera may see better than you do in low light.
    “The high-tech imaging of body cameras allows them to record with clarity in many low-light settings,” Lewinski says. “When footage is screened later, it may actually be possible to see elements of the scene in sharper detail than you could at the time the camera was activated.

“If you are receiving less visual information than the camera is recording under time-pressured circumstances, you are going to be more dependent on context and movement in assessing and reacting to potential threats. In dim light, a suspect’s posturing will likely mean more to you immediately than some object he’s holding. When footage is reviewed later, it may be evident that the object in his hand was a cell phone, say, rather than a gun. If you’re expected to have seen that as clearly as the camera did, your reaction might seem highly inappropriate.”

On the other hand, he notes, cameras do not always deal well with lighting transitions. “Going suddenly from bright to dim light or vice versa, a camera may briefly blank out images altogether,” he says.

  1. Your body may block the view.
    “How much of a scene a camera captures is highly dependent on where it’s positioned and where the action takes place,” Lewinski notes. “Depending on location and angle, a picture may be blocked by your own body parts, from your nose to your hands.

“If you’re firing a gun or a Taser, for example, a camera on your chest may not record much more than your extended arms and hands. Or just blading your stance may obscure the camera’s view. Critical moments within a scenario that you can see may be missed entirely by your body cam because of these dynamics, ultimately masking what a reviewer may need to see to make a fair judgment.”

  1. A camera only records in 2-D.
    Because cameras don’t record depth of field — the third dimension that’s perceived by the human eye — accurately judging distances on their footage can be difficult.

“Depending on the lens involved, cameras may compress distances between objects or make them appear closer than they really are,” Lewinski says. “Without a proper sense of distance, a reviewer may misinterpret the level of threat an officer was facing.”

In the Force Science Certification Course, he critiques several camera images in which distance distortion became problematic. In one, an officer’s use of force seemed inappropriate because the suspect appears to be too far away to pose an immediate threat. In another, an officer appears to strike a suspect’s head with a flashlight when, in fact, the blow was directed at a hand and never touched the head.

“There are technical means for determining distances on 2-D recordings,” Lewinski says, “but these are not commonly known or accessed by most investigators.”

  1. The absence of sophisticated time-stamping may prove critical.
    The time-stamping that is automatically imposed on camera footage is a gross number, generally measuring the action minute by minute. “In some high-profile, controversial shooting cases that is not sophisticated enough,” Lewinski says.  “To fully analyze and explain an officer’s perceptions, reaction time, judgment, and decision-making it may be critical to break the action down to units of one-hundredths of a second or even less.

“There are post-production computer programs that can electronically encode footage to those specifications, and the Force Science Institute strongly recommends that these be employed. When reviewers see precisely how quickly suspects can move and how fast the various elements of a use-of-force event unfold, it can radically change their perception of what happened and the pressure involved officers were under to act.”

  1. One camera may not be enough.
    “The more cameras there are recording a force event, the more opportunities there are likely to be to clarify uncertainties,” Lewinski says. “The angle, the ambient lighting, and other elements will almost certainly vary from one officer’s perspective to another’s, and syncing the footage up will provide broader information for understanding the dynamics of what happened. What looks like an egregious action from one angle may seem perfectly justified from another.

“Think of the analysis of plays in a football game. In resolving close calls, referees want to view the action from as many cameras as possible to fully understand what they’re seeing. Ideally, officers deserve the same consideration. The problem is that many times there is only one camera involved, compared to a dozen that may be consulted in a sporting event, and in that case the limitations must be kept even firmer in mind.

  1. A camera encourages second-guessing.
    “According to the U. S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, an officer’s decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations are not to be judged with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight’,” Lewinski notes. “But in the real-world aftermath of a shooting, camera footage provides an almost irresistible temptation for reviewers to play the coulda-shoulda game.

“Under calm and comfortable conditions, they can infinitely replay the action, scrutinize it for hard-to-see detail, slow it down, and freeze it. The officer had to assess what he was experiencing while it was happening and under the stress of his life potentially being on the line. That disparity can lead to far different conclusions.

“As part of the incident investigation, we recommend that an officer be permitted to see what his body camera and other cameras recorded. He should be cautioned, however, to regard the footage only as informational. He should not allow it to supplant his first-hand memory of the incident. Justification for a shooting or other use of force will come from what an officer reasonably perceived, not necessarily from what a camera saw.”

[For more details about FSI’s position on whether officers should be allowed to view video of their incidents, see Force Science News #114 (1/17/09). You will find online it at:]

  1. A camera can never replace a thorough investigation.
    When officers oppose wearing cameras, civilians sometimes assume they fear “transparency.” But more often, Lewinski believes, they are concerned that camera recordings will be given undue, if not exclusive, weight in judging their actions.

“A camera’s recording should never be regarded solely as the Truth about a controversial incident,” Lewinski declares. “It needs to be weighed and tested against witness testimony, forensics, the involved officer’s statement, and other elements of a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation that takes human factors into consideration.

“This is in no way intended to belittle the merits of body cameras. Early testing has shown that they tend to reduce the frequency of force encounters as well as complaints against officers.

“But a well-known police defense attorney is not far wrong when he calls cameras ‘the best evidence and the worst evidence.’ The limitations of body cams and others need to be fully understood and evaluated to maximize their effectiveness and to assure that they are not regarded as infallible ‘magic bullets’ by people who do not fully grasp the realities of force dynamics.”

Our thanks to Parris Ward, director and litigation graphics consultant with Biodynamics Engineering, Inc., for his help in facilitating this report.

About the author

The Force Science Institute was launched in 2004 by Executive Director Bill Lewinski, PhD. — a specialist in police psychology — to conduct unique lethal-force experiments. The non-profit Force Science Institute, based at Minnesota State University-Mankato, uses sophisticated time-and-motion measurements to document-for the first time-critical hidden truths about the physical and mental dynamics of life-threatening events, particularly officer-involved shootings. Its startling findings profoundly impact on officer training and safety and on the public’s naive perceptions.

For more information, visit or e-mail If you would benefit from receiving updates on the FSRC’s findings as well as a variety of other use-of-force related articles, please and click on the “Please sign up for our newsletter” link at the front of the site. Subscriptions are free.

PDF-IMAGE-e1472054684316  Investigating the Effects of Body-Worn Police Cameras


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