Subject Matter Experts Share
Law Enforcement Perspective on Implementation from Lauretta Hill, Deputy Chief, Miami Beach Police Department
Implementation FAQsDownload the entire National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit FAQs
Departments vary in how they have implemented body-worn camera (BWC) programs. However, there are two common themes.
First, the vast majority of departments have implemented their BWC programs with officers assigned to patrol. The rationale for deploying the technology with front-line patrol officers is that officers on patrol have the most contact with the public. Some departments have also expanded their use of BWCs beyond patrol into specialized units such as K-9, SWAT, specialized driving under the influence teams, and investigations.
Second, many departments have adopted an incremental approach to deployment by restricting use to a small number of officers for an initial pilot period. Departments have found that this type of approach helps to overcome potential officer anxiety and resistance and enables a department to make mid-term revisions as it learns how this technology affects the community as a whole. Such a strategy also allows other units in the department the time to adapt to the new technology. In many cases, the initial group of officers assigned to wear cameras are volunteers who often become "internal champions" for the technology.
Lindsay Miller from the Police Executive Research Forum stated, "The decision to implement a BWC program should not be entered lightly–once implemented it is hard to scale back from that course. Agencies need to thoughtfully examine the idea of a BWC program and have written policies in place (something not all agencies do)."
A two-page Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Law Enforcement Implementation Checklist was created for your download and use in implementing a new body-worn camera program from learning the fundamental all the way to a phased rollout. This guide captures the seven key focus areas to a comprehensive program plan and provided references back to this BWC Toolkit where relevant.
Evaluations of body-worn camera (BWC) programs vary is scope and nature. At a minimum, we believe the implementing agency should consider conducting both process and impact evaluations. The process evaluation should capture the planning and deployment process, including the names of officers who have been assigned cameras. These officers should undergo routine compliance audits to determine whether or not they are activating their BWC when required by departmental policy. These audit reports should be provided to the officer and their supervisor on a monthly basis, and should be compiled into an annual department-wide compliance report. This annual report should be provided to the community’s risk management unit. Impact evaluations vary considerably in their methodological rigor, from one group pre- and post-studies to randomized controlled trials. Generally, the more rigorous the better. The impact evaluation should, at a minimum, compare various outcome measures by individual assigned a BWC one year pre- and post-implementation. Outcome measures examining the impact of the BWC’s might include number of complaints, number of complaints sustained, use of force incidents, and number of resisting arrest incidents. For example, a department might compare the number of complaints one year prior to an officer being assigned the BWC to the one year period following the assignment of the BWC. For many agencies it is helpful to partner with a local college or university to evaluate the implementation of the BWC program, particularly in the programs first few years of implementation.
For more information, see:
Phoenix, Arizona: http://cvpcs.asu.edu/sites/default/files/content/projects/PPD_SPI_Final_Report%204_28_15.pdf
Is This a Good Quality Outcome Evaluation Report? A Guide for Practitioners: https://www.bja.gov/evaluation/reference/Quality_Outcome_Eval.pdf
The Maryland Scientific Methods Scale: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=198650
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 are a handful of useful resources on body-worn cameras (BWC). The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office published a report in 2014 that examines key issues and offers policy recommendations. The report is based on survey responses from 254 agencies, interviews with 40 law enforcement executives who have implemented BWCs, and outcomes from a one-day conference held on September 11, 2013, that included more than 200 law enforcement executives, scholars, and experts. In April 2014, the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center published a report that describes the core issues surrounding the technology and examines the state of research on those issues (White, 2014). In March 2014, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published a market survey that compared BWC vendors across a range of categories. There is also a growing number of published evaluations that examine the implementation, impact, and consequences of body-worn cameras. This web site and toolkit is intended to be a clearinghouse of the latest available research, reports, and knowledge on the technology.
For additional information, see:
In general, when estimating the cost of implementing a body-worn camera (BWC) program, three types of costs should be considered.
- Capital outlay. This can include the number of BWCs, mounting kits, tablets, field viewers, and docking stations.
- Operational costs. Data storage, software, and redaction costs are included in this category as well as costs associated with officer BWC administration (download time, reviewing video) and any efforts required to track and provide the video to the courts.
- Replacement costs. This is related to repairs, upgrades to next-generation technology, warranties, and replacements.
In addition to the hardware and data storage costs, departments have identified other expenses. For example, "Many agencies appoint at least one full-time officer to manage the camera program. Agencies must provide ongoing training programs, ensure that cameras are properly maintained, fix technical problems, and address any issues of officer noncompliance." (PERF, 2014: 32)
The costs of managing a BWC program are extensive and must be considered long-term. Weighing costs has helped departments place principled limitations on their program. This analysis should be part of the implementation design and discussion with other criminal justice officials and the community at large. Considerations may include:
- Limiting the types of encounters that must be recorded.
- Adopting shorter data-retention time periods.
- Seeking private funding to support the program.
- Developing other storage options for videos that must be kept for longer periods of time (e.g., saving critical incidents to a separate internal drive or to a disk).
For more information, see:
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.
Several policy areas are described in greater detail below.
Agencies have varied considerably in the content and structure of their department policies. Many agencies have made their policies publicly available, or they will furnish their policy upon request. A number of policies have been collected by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and are available in this toolkit. In addition, there are currently several model policies available for review. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has devised a model policy. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report (PERF, 2014) also includes a number of policy recommendations. In the United Kingdom, policy resources are available through a United Kingdom Home Office report (Goodall, 2007).
For more information, see:
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has dedicated $2 million to fund two or three body-worn camera (BWC) projects as part of the Smart Policing Initiative in fiscal year 2015. As part of President Obama's Community Policing Initiative, $20 million is available to support BWC purchases and programs in fiscal year 2015. The President has proposed an additional $30 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget. Finally, the BJA Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) is a valuable resource for communities to use to procure this equipment.
For more information, see:
In May 2015, Department of Justice Today announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot Partnership Program to respond to the immediate needs of local and tribal law enforcement organizations. The investment includes $17 million in competitive grants for the purchase of BWCs, $2 million for training and technical assistance, and $1 million for the development of evaluation tools to study best practices. The pilot program is part of President Obama’s proposal to invest $75 million over three years to purchase 50,000 BWCs for law enforcement agencies.
Administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, under the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the BWC Pilot Partnership Program will provide support to help law enforcement agencies develop, implement, and evaluate BWC programs across the United States.
The Justice Department expects to provide 50 awards to law enforcement agencies, with about one-third of the grants directed toward smaller law enforcement agencies. The grants, which require a 50/50 in-kind or cash match, can be used to purchase equipment, but applicants must establish a strong plan for BWC implementation and a robust training policy before purchasing cameras. The long-term costs associated with storing this information will be the financial responsibility of each local agency.
Another $2 million will fund a national BWC training and technical assistance provider through a competitive process. This training and technical assistance will provide support to law enforcement agencies to successfully develop and implement their BWC programs.
OJP's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) will receive $1 million of the funds to collect data on BWC usage through surveys of law enforcement agencies. BJS will also design data collection forms that can be used in future surveys of prosecutors and defense attorneys to measure how BWC footage is being used by the courts in criminal cases.
For more information, see:
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).
For more information, see:
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").
The answer to this question is dependent on the size, structure, and resources available to the agency. For some agencies, a training officer or training unit might be involved; in others, it might include a commander, legal counsel, information technology specialist, or a combination of personnel. Regardless of the personnel assigned to train law enforcement officers on body-worn cameras (BWC), at least four fundamentals should be included in training:
- Officers should be trained on departmental BWC policy (specifically when a BWC should be activated) and any applicable local/tribal ordinances or state laws.
- Officers should be trained to conduct a pre-shift inspection of the BWC to ensure that it is in proper operating condition.
- Officers should be trained on how and where to wear the BWC.
- Officers should be trained on how to properly document recorded events and download the evidence for storage according to departmental policy.
Some helpful considerations were shared by participants in the February 26-27 Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Expert Panel. Specifically, Patricia Wolfhope, Senior Program Manager from the Science and Technology Directorate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offered several considerations: "Training officers is highly dependent on what you want the outcome to be. When considering the technology, think about the use case first. How do you plan to use the video? Is it for evidence? Is it face recognition? Is it face detection? When officers start to see the payback of the cameras, then they buy-in and are more interested in the use of the technology. Technology is almost always ahead of privacy and policy issues."
Sergeant Dan Gomez of the Los Angeles (CA) Police Department indicated that its training was integrated into roll calls for every section, "so it would hit every unit." Gomez said, "we also did a pre-deployment training. We selected a field officer to be a liaison with the front-line troops for one-on-one interviews to get real feedback versus what they felt they had to tell implementation team and leadership. We required the vendor to participate in the training as well, but all training was led by cops to the cops. The team also trained the DA's office, who were also involved in policy discussions. A great success is the in-house train-the-trainer program, so each division had a BWC training designee. Transparency and accountability are intermixed. We expect the officer to do the right thing and focused the organization on this. When review of the video with the officer and the footage turns criminal in nature–the nature of the investigation is changed. If we know a criminal act has occurred, then the officer does not view the video–this is a different process. We educated the community that there are two different courses of action. The community didn’t know this and are satisfied with that role and expectations."
The PERF survey indicated that 94% percent of the agencies that have deployed BWCs use the video and audio footage to train officers. The report states, "Many police agencies are discovering that body-worn cameras can serve as a useful training tool to help improve officer performance. For example, agencies are using footage from body-worn cameras to provide scenario-based training, to evaluate performance of new officers in the field, and to identify new areas in which training is needed." (PERF 2014: 7)
For more information, see:
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."
The implementation of a body-worn camera (BWC) program affects nearly every unit in a law enforcement agency. At a minimum, the affected officers and units include: patrol officers, patrol supervisors (sergeants through commanders), training instructors, legal staff, detectives/investigators, internal affairs/professional standards, evidence management and records, technology, and research and planning. Additionally, in some departments, tactical units also wear BWCs. Representatives from all of these units should participate, in some way, in the planning and implementation process.