Do Police Body-Worn Cameras Reduce Citizen Fatalities? Results of a Country-Wide Natural Experiment

Joel Miller, Vijay F. Chillar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: This study assesses the effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on rates of fatalities arising from police-citizen encounters. While existing experimental research has not examined this outcome because it is so rare, the staggered roll-out of BWCs across the nation’s law enforcement agencies provides an opportunity for quasi-experimental analysis. Methods: Difference-in-difference (DID) analyses using Poisson models compare changes in U.S. law enforcement agencies’ fatality counts with changes in BWC acquisition. Using a federal law enforcement survey focused on body worn cameras (LEMAS-BWCS) and media-sourced data on fatal encounters from fatalencounters.org (FE), the research examines agencies acquiring BWCs between 2013/14 and 2015/16 and those that did not acquire them up to 2016 and had no plans to do so. It includes a fixed effects annual panel data analysis with data from 2005/06 to 2018/19 and two two-group analyses focusing on a pre-treatment period (2010/11 to 2012/13) and a post-treatment period (2016/17 to 2018/19). The latter includes a propensity score matched comparison. Results: Two out of three DID analyses showed statistically significant negative effects of BWCs on citizen fatalities. The propensity score matched two-group analysis returned a non-significant negative effect. Conclusions: The research finds some evidence for BWC effects on citizen fatalities. However, there are important validity threats to this conclusion. These include the possibility that BWC acquisition serves as a marker for other policy changes focused on BWC-acquiring agencies in the 2013/14 to 2015/16 period and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-754
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

Keywords

  • Body-worn cameras
  • Difference-in-difference
  • Fatal encounters
  • Police technology
  • Use of force

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