Implementation

Implementing an effective body-worn camera (BWC) program involves far more than procuring and disseminating equipment to officers. Before launching a program, an agency should develop a comprehensive plan and engage a broad group of criminal justice stakeholders and community members. Working groups composed of these individuals should help develop documented policies and procedures that address the six most common BWC policy areas (video capture, viewing, use, release, storage, and audits/controls). Technical solutions are designed and procured based on an agency's specific hardware and software requirements that leverage regional data storage opportunities and larger government procurements. Lastly, an effective BWC program is supported by a comprehensive communication and education campaign that involves stakeholders in law enforcement, courts, prosecution, the defense bar, civic leadership, labor organizations, victim and juvenile advocacy, the media, and the public. As such, many programs launch in phases and include post-implementation evaluation, monitoring, and measurement.

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Law Enforcement Perspective on Implementation from Lauretta Hill, Deputy Chief, Miami Beach Police Department

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Implementation FAQs

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The backend of the implementation of a body-worn camera (BWC) program requires a great deal of coordination. Criminal investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, forensic scientists, evidence technologists, public information officers, information technology specialists, and other personnel all need to be trained on BWC policies and need to develop their own policies and procedures for processing and using video obtained through BWCs. For example, personnel associated with the courts (e.g., prosecutors, defense attorneys) need to develop strategies for tracking and reviewing evidence obtained through BWCs; information technology specialists need to purchase and install equipment and software; and public information officers need to establish and implement protocols for releasing information obtained through BWCs. Prosecutors also need to have timely access to recorded data, as delays in gaining access could affect the adjudication of a criminal case. Law enforcement agencies should keep prosecutors and judges apprised of changes to their BWC program, especially with regard to expansion. As more cameras are deployed to officers, prosecutors (and defense attorneys) may have to adjust staffing accordingly. According to Vicki Hill, Acting City of Phoenix (AZ) Prosecutor, for every 100 cameras added by the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department, the prosecutor's office needed to hire or re-assign a new staff member.

Participants in the February 26-27, 2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Camera Expert Panel were unanimous in emphasizing the early and ongoing involvement of the prosecution community in planning and implementing a BWC program. Like other law enforcement participants, Michael Kurtenbach of the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department stated, "agencies need to involve prosecutors, the community, etc.…because the development of BWC policy needs to be well-understood and comprehensive." To expound on the need, Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler from San Diego (CA) County said, "anybody in charge of developing a body-worn camera policy should first consult prosecutors and civil liabilities attorneys." He further warned that "agencies will have problems, so they need policies in place about retention, access, and timely discovery before activation, or cases will be delayed." Vicki Hill, Acting City of Phoenix (AZ) Prosecutor, reminded the panel about the significant impact BWCs have on the prosecutor community, sharing that an "Arizona state statute dictates that we have to redact certain personally identifying information (PII) about the victims before turning it over to the defense attorney. Prosecutors have to view it, determine what has to be redacted, then render it–which takes twice as long as the length of the video to get the output. Huge financial staffing resources are required for editing video files." Expounding upon the need for prosecutor involvement, Kay Chopard Cohen, National District Attorneys Association, explained, "From a prosecutor's perspective, we need to worry about victim safety and confidentiality, about the safety of innocent bystanders." Chopard Cohen further explained, "BWCs add a layer of complexity; we want to see what happened, but sometimes when an officer responds, it is not ripe for public viewing. There are situations where we have to educate the public and legislatures that this should not be available for public viewing."

There is a wide-range of important issues that may be governed by a law enforcement agency’s internal administrative policy. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report (PERF, 2014:37) identifies a range of key policy issues, including:

  • Basic camera usage: who will wear the cameras; where will the cameras be worn (hat, sunglasses, chest, etc.).
  • Designated staff member: identify who is responsible for maintaining, charging, reporting, documenting malfunctions, and issuing new cameras.
  • Recording protocols: when to activate and deactivate camera, and when recording is required, discretionary, and prohibited.
  • Video downloading process: who will download, when download will occur, where data will be stored, and how it will be safeguarded from tampering.
  • Method for documenting chain of custody.
  • Data retention periods for different categories of recorded data (evidentiary, non-evidentiary).
  • Process for accessing and reviewing data: identify who is authorized to review and under what circumstances (e.g., individual officers, supervisors).
  • Process for releasing recorded data to the public, including redaction processes, timelines for release, and data specifically prohibited from release.
  • Process for contracting with third-party vendors for data storage.
Other resources for policy considerations include: a report by the National Institute of Justice Sensor, Surveillance, and Biometric Technologies (SSBT) Center of Excellence (2012); the International Association of Chiefs of Police Body-Worn Cameras Model Policy; and the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center Report (White, 2014).

Several policy areas are described in greater detail below.

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At a minimum, a law enforcement agency should collaborate with the prosecutor’s office (city, county, state, federal, and/or tribal), the public defender and defense bar, the courts, and relevant leaders in local/tribal government (mayor, city council, city attorney, etc.).

The law enforcement agency should also engage civil rights/advocacy groups, community leaders, and residents. A number of agencies have also engaged local media in the process to educate the public, advertise the decision to adopt the technology (i.e., to demonstrate transparency), and provide a mechanism to gather feedback.

In March 2015, there were nearly 30 states considering legislation governing officer body-worn cameras (BWC), many of which mandate cameras for all law enforcement officials in the entire state. Law enforcement leaders should also engage state representatives to ensure that legislatures fully understand the issues surrounding this technology, and that they engage in thoughtful deliberations regarding BWCs. By engaging external stakeholders, the law enforcement agency can ensure that expectations about the impact of the technology are reasonable and their outcomes obtainable.

This toolkit is community-sourced. That is, most of the material in this clearinghouse was contributed by your colleagues representing various disciplines from across the country and the world, and it is available for your use, education, and consideration. If you use content from the toolkit, we only ask that you attribute the material to the web site or the original author of the material. This toolkit does not endorse any one resource but asks you to evaluate the appropriate resources for your communities’ needs as you work your way through the National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit Law Enforcement Implementation Checklist. And, if you have something to contribute, just e-mail us at askbwc@usdoj.gov.

The answer to this question depends on how you measure officer daily practices.

With regard to paperwork, the research is mixed. In Plymouth, England, body-worn cameras (BWC) led to quicker resolution of cases, which produced a 22.4% reduction in officer time devoted to paperwork and file preparation; and to a 9.2% increase in officer time spent on patrol (an extra 50 minutes per nine-hour shift) (Goodall, 2007). But in Victoria, Canada, and in Phoenix, AZ, officers spent significantly more time on paperwork following the deployment of BWCs (Laur et al., 2010; Katz et al., 2015).

With respect to evidentiary quality, research conducted in Plymouth and Essex, United Kingdom; Victoria, Canada; and Phoenix, AZ, suggests that the use of BWCs increases the quality of evidence (Goodall, 2007; Laur et al., 2010; Owens et al., 2014; Katz et al., 2015). Related to these results, in Phoenix researchers reported that domestic violence incidents where an officer was wearing a BWC were more likely to result in charging and conviction. Specifically, they found that when compared to non-camera cases, camera cases were more likely to be initiated by the prosecutor's office (40.9% vs. 34.3%), have charges filed (37.7% vs. 26%), have cases furthered (12.7% vs. 6.2%), result in a guilty plea (4.4% vs. 1.2%), and result in a guilty verdict at trial (4.4% vs. 0.9%) (Katz et al., 2015).

If officer performance is measured by the number of contacts with members of the public, the evidence is limited. In Rialto, CA, there was an increase in the number of contacts between law enforcement and the public after BWCs were deployed in the field (3,178 more contacts after BWC deployments, compared to the prior year) (Ariel, et al. 2014). We do not know why there was this increase but intend to do further research to find out if an increase is consistent with what is happening with other departments and why.

More generally, a number of law enforcement executives interviewed indicated that they had used BWCs to identify and address larger structural issues in their department and to develop solutions to those problems. This includes weaknesses in training, policy, and law enforcement officer field behavior (e.g., using video footage to investigate racial profiling) (PERF, 2014).

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Law enforcement agencies will benefit from a public education campaign that is focused on increasing public awareness of the body-worn camera (BWC) program, the goals for the program (why the agency has adopted the cameras), and what to expect in terms of benefits and challenges. The public education campaign can be part of a larger effort by the agency to demonstrate transparency and to improve outcomes with the community. The local media can be an important partner in the public education campaign, through print, radio, and television reporting on the BWC program. Decisions about how much information to provide and how to provide it (web site, public service announcements, media reporting, etc.) should be made locally.

Several participants of the Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Expert Panel shared their community outreach efforts. Michael Wagers, Chief Operating Officer of the Seattle (WA) Police Department, explained Seattle took three months to rewrite its BWC policy because it posted the policy publically to seek input from stakeholders. Wagers emphasized the significant value in this approach, "We had an agreement with the police union and included them in the policy development process–we ended up using a lot of input from external stakeholders as well." Inspector Steve Goodier of the Hampshire Constabulary in the United Kingdom suggested a pre- and post-survey of both the community and officers, explaining that it was wonderful to have the data to demonstrate internal and external support of BWCs ("85% support among the public support as well as overwhelming positive support from officers").

There is strong evidence that suggests line officers and their bargaining units should be engaged up front as a department plans its body-worn camera (BWC) program. Such engagement helps to garner support for the program and will allow line officers and bargaining unit representatives to provide input into the planning and deployment process, most notably the creation of the administrative policy.

In addition to the one-on-one contact with bargaining unit representation, many law enforcement executives have noted that they have spent a significant amount of time communicating with officers about the technology at roll call briefings and department meetings prior to launch. Other departments have created "implementation teams" with representatives from various units throughout the department (PERF, 2014). These types of teams meet regularly during the planning and implementation process, air concerns and troubleshoot challenges, and develop policy and training.

Participants in the February 26-27, 2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Expert Panel all agreed that early and ongoing collaboration between agencies and labor organizations was critical to successful BWC program implementation. Chief Sean Whent of the Oakland (CA) Police Department said that their success hinged on the "union being involved in creation of policy and they were most concerned about (the) department saying officers are lying about what is on video." Lieutenant Clarence Trapp from the Pittsburgh (PA) Bureau of Police urged that implementers make collaboration a priority, noting that "when deploying the cameras, the Pittsburgh (PA) Bureau of Police worked with the prosecuting attorney, a professor from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the union president to make this work." Chief Jeff Halstead (retired) from the Fort Worth (TX) Police Department said, "let the union board draft the first policy document and let them have a seat at the policy table and training."

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