Much has been written in the past few days about a recent study of 2,600 police officers in Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, which concluded that body cameras have no statistically significant
impact on police officers’ use of force.
This is perhaps less surprising a finding than some commentators suggest.
A body camera might prevent the odd swear word or inappropriate comment when an officer is relaxed while conscious of the device attached to their ballistic vest. But in a heated situation where force becomes necessary, it is instinct rather than careful consideration that takes over, with more deeply ingrained behaviors coming to the fore. If the instinct to use force is deeply ingrained, it doesn’t matter whether a camera is rolling.
That said, cameras are not useless. They just serve a different purpose: rather than changing ingrained behaviors, they illuminate them for police and public scrutiny.