Study: Body Cameras Reduce Police Use of Force and Pay for Themselves

On the heels of Derek Chauvin being convicted of murder and manslaughter thanks to video evidence, a new study reveals the real benefit that police body cameras can bring to the public in general. 

While more and more police departments are turning to body-worn cameras to help in monitoring their officers, the helpfulness of these cameras has been the subject of debate. Cost of procuring and maintaining body camera systems has often been cited by local governments as an obstacle to adoption. 

A new meta analysis by a team of public service analysts and researchers now reveals that the benefit gained from deploying body-worn camera systems is worth the expense. 

As the investigators told, complaints against the police fell by 17%, and use of force fell by almost 10% in instances where body cameras were used. Jens Ludwig, director of University of Chicago's Crime Lab and one of the authors of the study, went on to summarize that, while encouraging, the data shows that body cameras are only a part of the solution. More needs to be done to close the gap in police use of force against Black vs. white individuals. 

That said, the researchers were quick to point out that the deployment of body cameras is a financial no-brainer for municipalities, and valued the benefit of the devices at approximately 5 times the cost of procurement. A smashing return on investment even when compared to the roughly 2x return on hiring more police officers. 

The researchers went further to suggest that evolving technology might continue to change how in-field video evidence is gathered. It remains to the be seen, therefore, how the benefits of body-worn cameras will morph over time.