back to article Let's make the coppers wear cameras! That'll make the ba... Oh. No sodding difference

Police forces have been told to temper their expectations of body-worn cameras, as a randomised study involving almost 2,500 US cops throws up little evidence of purported benefits. The work, carried out by an applied research team at the mayor’s office in Washington DC, claims to be one of the largest randomised control …

  1. rmason Silver badge

    Of course they haven't helped as hoped.

    If there's every anything negative or damning on them they'll just be "broken"* at the time in question.

    *Broken, forgotten, turned off, flat battery, broken or lost memory card, water damaged, impact damaged,lost,stolen, left behind in the car accidentally etc etc etc

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      IANAL and I have no idea about the "rules of evidence" in the US, and only slightly more about UK rules but IIRC in the UK all evidence gathered by the police in any given investigation has to be supplied to the defence whether that evidence is used in Court or not, and that would by definition include anything garnered from BWCs.

      I think the legal profession would smell a rat long before anything came to Court if material potentially helpful to a defendant (or a complainant in the case of a complaint against the police) was mysteriously missing because of an unexplained defect in a BWC.

      Evidence - tampering is hardly unknown (sadly) but tampering with video evidence might be very hard to conceal, even by simply denying its availability. (What? Both (all?) BWCs used during this arrest were faulty?) It would not be long before defence barristers were asking about serial numbers of BWCs used against their clients, along with the test / maintenance records on them. And insisting on questioning the person(s) responsible for doing the downloads and storing the material.

      I would suggest that "faulty BWCs" could very easily rebound hard on anyone (or any organisation) trying that approach.

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        If it will rebound on the police or if it will be treated as leniently for them as everything else is an open debate, but that approach is being used. This case is not the only one. I suspect the cams will mostly work perfectly where they show naughty perps in action. That may be cynical but we've all been led down this path over many years by the police. Our best hope is for mobile phones in the hands of citizens.

        Bad people doing bad things

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        At least in the US the police could turn on/off the cameras at their discretion - for reasons of public privacy.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Sometimes they turn them on at just the right time not realizing there is a 30 second pre-record buffer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Eddy Ito

            Fitting the Crime to make the Punishment.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I met a guy who was actually in the camera room at a University when the UK police kicked off a riot (that is not an overstatement, students sat on the grass, police wade in with truncheons).

        I forget the numbers but dozens of people went before the beak on video evidence alone, each bit of evidence being a few seconds only and ALL the rest was unavailable to defense lawyers even when it was the University that collected the data. In ALL cases. There was no other evidence other than that which the police selected. The guy I was talking too was there while it was being recorded. This is back in the day when video evidence was on a tapes and no'cameras on phones. The police took all the tapes, copied the bits they wanted and erased the rest. There was not even any attempt to conceal this.

        Power corrupts. Old saw.

        1. gnarlymarley

          Re: nonsense

          There was no other evidence other than that which the police selected.

          Doesn't everyone know that the police only work for the prosecutor, and therefore always select evidence for the "prosecutor"?

          Many folks think the police are on the public's side, however, the police get their rules from the government and they collect evidence for the prosecutor. The prosecutor is on the other side of the courtroom and therefore not our friends. Since the police "gather evidence for their side", this means the police are also not our friends.

          As I am sure that happens a lot in court, the prosecutor is always going to work to make sure their side comes out better. If not, then we would elect new government officials where we could.

          This means that the statement above in italics is accurate.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: nonsense

            I'm detecting a lot of anti Police sentiment here.

            Are you all criminals?

            1. sambaynham

              Re: nonsense

     are Amber Rudd, and I claim my £5

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


      BWCs will only have a chance of making a difference if every officer wears two independent cameras, which must be recording at all times that they are on duty, with failure to record being a disciplinary offence and multiple failures resulting in dismissal.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      The reason is obvious

      Even when body cameras have shown cops at fault they often face no consequences. Why should cops alter their bad behavior if all their going to get is "administrative leave" (i.e. paid vacation) and then be absolved of guilt because "he feared for his life", i.e. "he couldn't have known the guy wasn't going for a gun when he told him to produce identification and then shot him when he put his hand in his pocket".

      In many of these cases the affected party will win millions in damages. The cop doesn't pay, the police union doesn't pay. The citizens pay, since the city pays the judgements. Cops should be required to carry liability insurance for such judgments against them for their actions. Doctors do, why shouldn't cops? They can either pay it out of their own pockets, which would be a powerful incentive to not do things that result in judgments against them, or their union can pay for it, which would be a powerful incentive for the unions to stop protecting bad cops.

      Until cops face the consequences of their actions, you could have a 24x7 reality show follow them around and it wouldn't change their behavior.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      or the alternative too

      that all the "innocent" people being "falsely arrested" do not appear so innocent under later review. A number of claims of harassment, racism, etc. have been shut down by cameras too.

      the problem being "nobody wins" as ne'er-do-wells on both sides of the badge get caught out. So of course we gotta get rid of them.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Or simply

    Police know that if they video evidence of them doing something naughty it will be lost or they can rely on a carefully picked jury to ignore it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or simply

      ... unlike the cameras used by "activists" which always capture the unvarnished reality

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Or simply

      Police know that if they video evidence of them doing something naughty it will be lost or they can rely on a carefully picked jury to ignore it.

      Meanwhile, back in reality, the vast majority of footage on BWCs will show mundane interactions of police with the public. Despite some of the hysterical responses here, the vast majority of police are honest, hard-working (and under-paid).

      There may be a public perception that they are all corrupt, and up to something, and this may be true in a tiny minority of cases, but it is hardly surprising that BWCs are not turning up evidence of widespread police misbehaviour because it is not that common.

      When Police commit a crime, it gets high-profile attention, and rather than a slap-on-the-wrist, people get prison sentences. For instance: Officers in the Bijan Ebrahimi were sentenced to gaol, and in this case, they were guilty of neglectful incompetence, rather than violence themselves.

      What BWCs are actually useful for is gathering evidence when the officers have to interact with someone who is a suspect, or is committing a crime. This is, after all, a fairly common scenario. The recordings can be used as evidence in court, for instance, to show what a suspect said or did, without having to rely on witness statements and cross-examinations, which cost court time and therefore money. In other words, they aren't helping the police, so much as the CPS (there is a common misunderstanding amongst the public that the police are responsible for prosecuting cases, this is fully the remit of the CPS, the police are primarily involved in preventing and detecting crime, and arresting and interviewing suspects. They will often be called to court as witnesses, but the prosecution will usually be made in the name of the Crown).

      BWCs are also useful where there are allegations of excessive force by the police. There has been at least one case of a youtube video that appears to show police using excessive force when restraining someone, which conveniently omits to show the run-up to the restraint where police have approached a suspect and the suspect has become violent. The BWC in this case has shown the allegations to be false, which in turn saves the IPCC time and money that they would have to use to investigate a complaint unnecessarily. It turns out people like to accuse the police of brutality all the time...

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Or simply

        "When Police commit a crime, it gets high-profile attention, and rather than a slap-on-the-wrist, people get prison sentences."

        If the media find out and decide to report on it, yes. But I am certain that many crimes, particularly "minor" ones, are swept under the carpet.

        Let's take a silly example. My brother was doing the speed limit and a cop car, without blues and twos, flew past. He decided it would be funny (he was young) to follow. So he matched speed, maintained a safe distance, and followed the cop at speeds well in excess of the speed limit.

        The cop then noticed him and slowed down to below the speed limit, expecting my brother to pass. He didn't but kept matching speeds as the cop (dangerously) sped up and down to try to catch him out. Eventually, he put his blue lights on and signalled my brother to pull over.

        "Do you know what speed you were doing, sir?"

        "The same speed as you, officer"

        After some back and forth, my brother was issued with a speeding ticket. Fortunately, we knew the head policeman at the local station. My brother explained to him what had happened, the ticket was voided, and the cop in question had his driving privileges revoked.

        Now I will accept my brother was a silly boy, but had he not done this the cop would have gone on breaking the law, and putting people at risk. He wouldn't be pulled over by his fellow cops. And had we not known the senior officer, my brother would have been prosecuted and the cop would have gotten away scott free.

        So, I do not accept that "When Police commit a crime, it gets high-profile attention". They only do when they get found out, and there is a lower chance of being found out if you are a cop.

  3. Just Enough

    Better justice is the difference

    Surely the most important thing is that the camera records an accurate and unbiased record of events? If people's (meaning police or public) behaviour doesn't alter because of the camera, then at least we can be more certain that they will better held responsible for that behaviour.

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Better justice is the difference

      Well exactly. That's the weird thing about this study. They have put cameras on officers and expected people to act differently around them and are surprised when people don't. People see cameras all the time, every day. They're normal. So why WOULD they change their behaviour? The assertion that cameras will make people behave differently is bunk. If the PMCs (Plod-Mounted Cams) are being sold on the basis that they will make people behave better then that's obviously not going to happen.

      Surely the purpose of the camera is the recording of the officer's shift to allow them to carry out their job of law enforcement successfully? Sell the cameras on the basis of better quality evidence so that it's not Perp's Word Against Plod's.

      1. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Better justice is the difference

        @Flatpackhamster (where can I buy one?)

        Agree completely. Surely the whole point is to provide evidence if things come to court:

        1. Protect the officer from claims of misconduct

        2. Inform the jury (juries believe cameras more than people - in my personal experience on a jury, though they tried hard not to believe the camera, wanted to believe the poor thugs lies because he had a 2 year old, poor luv. Shouldn't have caved the lads head in on camera then should he?)

        3. Protect the innocent, and not so innocent, from police violence

        In my experience police (the ones wearing cams) behave reasonably well. Its the ones that are unlikely to be wearing cams that we need to watch.

        1. Marshalltown

          Re: Better justice is the difference

          By and large police are pretty well behaved. But they are dealing with individuals who frequently have an exaggerated idea of what they are entitled to. I gave the bum's rush to a former in-law one evening following a death in family. He tried to start some sort of counseling session in my house. No one wanted to hear it and when we asked him to postpone it until a better time. Instead of changing the topic he started in on his constitutional rights under the First Amendment. I hustled him out the door and down the walk, one hand on his collar and the other helping him along by his belt pulled up high and tight at the small of his back, explaining that the First guarantees freedom of speech, but not an audience nor a venue. He called the police outside the gate. They came, explained the same thing to him, and that trying to return after being told to leave was trespass. Then they told me that it might be better to let them handle the riff raff. If he'ld been injured when I chucked him out the gate I would have been at fault, but I had their sympathy since he would not shut up about his rights. So they escorted him off to his car and nodded good night to me.

      2. Lotaresco

        Re: Better justice is the difference

        "Well exactly. That's the weird thing about this study. They have put cameras on officers and expected people to act differently around them and are surprised when people don't."

        Many of the interactions that the police have with members of the public occur when the member of the public is out of their gourd on booze or drugs. Sometimes they are just out of their gourd on testosterone and adrenaline.

        Most of the time the suspect isn't bothered by the presence of six burly police officers, handcuffs, pepper spray and leg restraints. In the USA these people kick off despite the officers having Tasers and guns. It's therefore most unlikely that any of the people confronting the police, or being confronted by them, are aware of a camera or would care if they knew everything was being recorded. In those circumstances how can a camera modify their behaviour?

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Better justice is the difference

          +1 for use of the phrase, "out of their gourd".

  4. Anonymous Coward


    When CCTV is prevalent one of two things happen.

    1. If spontaneous, like a drunken fight, it makes no difference.

    2. If it's planned, they just go to a different location.

    This is nothing new.

    Also don't US police forces have to manually turn it on / off, or is that just some states?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Suprised

      Or you just take the suspect around the corner out of view before they accidentally fall over and die.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Suprised

        Or you just take the suspect around the corner out of view before they accidentally fall over and die.

        Amazing how often this happens, how often a perfectly healthy and sober individual slips and falls just outside of camera view, while being escorted somewhere by the police.

  5. Matthew Brasier

    Rational vs irrational behaviour

    I agree with the poster above that the key issue is that the camera can provide a record of what happens. If we make the assumption that the majority of police are not outright psychopaths, we can probably assume that the situations in which they use force are ones that they believe at the time it is justified. There are quite a few reasons (from psychological "tunnel vision" syndromes through to plain racist beliefs) that can cause a police officers interpretation of the situation to be incorrect, but it is unlikely that in the kinds of events being considered, for the majority of officers, that wearing a camera is going to change their interpretation of the situation (they feel that they or the public are in imminent serious danger).

    What a camera can do, when reviewed in hindsight, is provide information as to what kinds of situations are often mis-understood, which could be essential in having targeted training and assistance to ensure that officers better interpret similar situations in the future.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Rational vs irrational behaviour

      Unless, of course, someone particularly devious plays to the camera and exploits lack of context to get off or get the cop in trouble. Every coin I know has two sides.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Rational vs irrational behaviour

        Unless, of course, someone particularly devious plays to the camera and exploits lack of context to get off or get the cop in trouble.

        That sounds like a pretty risky strategy to me, one that if it doesn't pay off (and is likely not to) could end up with you also facing a supplementary charge such as obstructing the course of justice, or assisting an offender. For instance, try making a case in court for why the camera showed you pretending to be assaulted whilst an officer was making an arrest.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Rational vs irrational behaviour

      Thank you for a note of reason.

      Policing is hard. Most mistakes are honest ones. Sure there will be exceptions, and they'll get all the attention - but to mistake the exceptions for the rule is one of the basic fallacies.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Rational vs irrational behaviour

        Except one must know that edge cases tend to stop being edge cases.

      2. technoise

        Re: Rational vs irrational behaviour

        veti: Policing is hard. Most mistakes are honest ones. Sure there will be exceptions, and they'll get all the attention - but to mistake the exceptions for the rule is one of the basic fallacies.

        It's for the exceptions that the cameras would provide a safeguard. If a public servant does not wish to be accountable, maybe they should not be in the job in the first place.

  6. moiety

    I wonder if they kept the "mysterious equipment failure at convenient times" statistic. That would be interesting to know.

    It's a trial, so unless the cameras are very very obvious, the public are going to behave like normal unless they spot them; by which time it may well be too late. I would expect some change in the behaviour of the police; unless the equipment can be easily nullified (which it probably can) in which case turn it off when convenient and carry on like normal.

    Small sample size too.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      ...unless the equipment can be easily nullified (which it probably can) in which case turn it off when convenient and carry on like normal.

      Which in turn would prompt the question in Court... Would you please explain to the Court why the time code on your footage is not continuous? And why does it not cover the entirety of your presence at this incident?

      I have done a bit of delving in the last few minutes and a timecode (real time as well!) seems to be mandatory. One manufacturer's website has a demo playback with the timecode down to "minutes", but it didn't take long to spot that fact that the material had been edited because the timecode was discontinuous. Another model from the same maker had timecode down to seconds and that was unbroken.

      Tampering with BWC video evidence might be harder than you think.

      1. moiety

        Not really. An automated clone/area heal tool plus adding your own clock.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Not really. An automated clone/area heal tool plus adding your own clock.

          What makes you think there would be no checksum / cryptographic protection? It's not as if the manufacturers won't have thought about the potential for evidence tampering, and the police who are using these will almost certainly have procedures to ensure a chain of custody for evidence.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You will never know the effectiveness of the BWC until they are used all the time by all officers.

    I also fail to see the point in a randomised study, the best way to test their effectiveness is when they have been used to convict someone or where a complaint has been raised, to do otherwise is a waste of time because what exactly are you going to compare it against? I can see what's happened versus not seeing what happened.

  8. Khaptain Silver badge

    Alternative Comparison

    Has crime gone down since the Govts started putting CCTV all over the cities.. If not then why bother with BWCs.

    I could imagine that it runs on the same premise that because you are being watched you stop being nasty... Or you learn how to avoid the cameras.. and it works both ways for the Bad guys as well as the Good guys..

    Status Quo ?

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Alternative Comparison

      Has crime gone down since the Govts started putting CCTV all over the cities.. If not then why bother with BWCs.

      Apples and Oranges I'm afraid. CCTV captures "street crime" and while it may not have resulted in any reduction in crime statistics it can make identifying a possible suspect and tracking their movements possible, not simply easier. I stress the "possible" because without the CCTV that identification and tracking might have been completely impossible previously.

      A BWC, OTOH, records the interaction between a police officer and a suspect or witness, which is an entirely different scenario to what CCTV captures. If nothing else a BWC will work indoors where (public) CCTV cannot.

      Having said that detection rates are dismally low, so your point about CCTV may have some validity. However conclusions about CCTV cannot be assumed to be valid for BWCs; the two have vastly different purposes.

      1. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: Alternative Comparison

        Ever phoned the police to try and report something recently. Pretty much the first question they ask is "Have you got CCTV?". Not sure they know what top do if you haven't.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Alternative Comparison

          Pretty much the first question they ask is "Have you got CCTV?".

          Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to ask. If there is CCTV clearly showing someone committing a crime, and it is of sufficient quality, then it will identify the perp. The police can then go and arrest the right person, and the CCTV will form useful evidence in court. The CCTV may also indicate other things that the police can bag-up (such as clothing, weapons, etc.) as supplementary evidence to gain a better chance of a conviction.

          On the other hand, if you don't have CCTV footage, they will have a necessarily harder job to do. There is a trade-off between several factors such as policing resources, severity of crime, and likelihood of a successful prosecution that may mean they are better off using their increasingly limited resources to detect other crimes.

      2. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Alternative Comparison

        Sure CCTV has made a big difference. Petty criminals know to wear hats and hoodies. The response of police in the UK now seems to be "yes we saw it on CCTV, we can't identify anybody, and in any case all our officers are fully committed to checking football fans for racist gestures"

  9. Rob D.

    Study of studies

    There's too much variability in the studies in terms of methods and conclusions. There are some good reasons to consider how with BWCs improved availability of evidence, removing the discretionary element of whether recording is occurring, improved defence or prosecution outcomes either way, and so on, outcomes for police and, er, their customers could improve (or not), but there is a fresh headline every few months with some 'new finding'. Even this study has to add the less newsworthy notes about whether the chosen police force was a good one.

    The subject area seems ripe for some constructive, neutral consolidation.

    Beneficial -

    Negative -

  10. Harry Stottle

    And no significant change can be expected until...

    1 wearing body cams is made mandatory

    2 the law is changed in line with my fictional "History of Digital Telepathy"

    Short Version:

    Citizen - Innocent Until Proved Guilty

    Authority - Guilty Until Proved Innocent

    where the digital recording of EVERY activity by any authority in the conduct of their official duties is mandated and proven by entries on an immutable database, available for inspection by (publicly) trusted independent Auditors (to eliminate Accountability Theatre)

    Where it is made illegal for an instruction to be given without that recording, and illegal to follow such instructions without confirmation that the recording exists (most of which can be automated)

    So that, whenever an authority is accused of stepping over the mark, everyone will know that they must have a recording. They would not, however, be obliged to reveal it. But we the people (in our role as Jury) would be entitled to read such refusal as admission of guilt.

    Of course, there is the legitimate problem raised by equipment failure, which suggests that no single point of failure should be permitted. i.e. two recording systems (at least) should always be available and if either one breaks, the authority should suspend their activities at the earliest opportunity to get it repaired or replaced.

    And that, ladies and germs, is how we might wrest control from government and start making their lives as much a misery as they've spent the last few thousand years doing to us....

    1. Dr. Ellen

      Re: And no significant change can be expected until...

      It would be nice if the perps and civilians involved had body cameras, too. Police have shown a great (and occasionally violent) aversion to that. But with higher cellphone speeds and larger storage, it might be able to store the video/audio somewhere safe from (ahem) official discretion. If a defense lawyer can present the video of a policeman ripping the suspect's bodycam off and stomping it -- that policeman's bodycam had better show a good reason for it or the case will be fatally compromised.

    2. Toastan Buttar

      Re: History of Digital Telepathy

      To Harry Stottle. A wonderful piece of work. Have a thousand upvotes. I had the exact same thoughts about a month or so ago, but I do not have the gumption or the talent to put them together in such a way. Thank you for articulating the concept.

      My extension to the idea was to have a central AI which had access to everyone's recordings, and which could 'join the dots' between various experiences of the same situation. If judgement was requested by any of the participants in an incident or dispute, then the AI would reveal the encrypted evidence as required.

      I think most people would allow recordings 24/7 because every time an injustice was resolved, the benefits would outweigh any doubts.

      A twist in the tale: A Messiah figure who decides from an early age that he wants no further personal recordings. Haven't thought through the implications, yet. Of course, there will be a million EXTERNAL recordings of his actions from other citizens, which could be stitched together by the AI. Unless he lives as a recluse.

      1. Harry Stottle

        Re: History of Digital Telepathy

        You're most kind

        One point I'd emphasise is that for private citizens (or even authorities acting outside their working "parameters") the recording would only be trusted because it will (MUST) have been demonstrated conclusively, that no one - especially including the authorities - can ever access their data without their uncoerced and informed consent. That's the difficult bit (and that sentence is my contender for understatement of the year)

        But I genuinely believe it is possible to get there from here...

    3. elgarak1

      Re: And no significant change can be expected until...

      To make it abundantly clear what you say:

      It is not the BWC themselves that make a difference.

      It's the rules of conduct – laws, procedures, assumptions of innocence, training/education etc. – surrounding them that need to change in accordance.

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: And no significant change can be expected until...

      "And that, ladies and germs, is how we might wrest control from government and start making their lives as much a misery as they've spent the last few thousand years doing to us...."

      Until someone comes up with a way to produce plausible FAKE information and slips this ability into enough of the population to make the immutable untrustworthy.

      Sorry, but it goes all the way back to E. E. Smith's Lensman series: Essentially "What man can create, man can RE-create." Thus he had to come up with something beyond the knowledge of all civilization to create something that couldn't be faked: the eponymous Lens.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The current issue of New Scientist carries a piece claiming exactly the opposite, with complaints falling by up to 90% when bodycams are worn. The contrast between no significant difference and up to 90% suggests to me that somebody is doing some very bad science here. The real question is, who and why?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      Or it could simply be a case of a different party funding the study. Always follow the money trail, and one shouldn't take a study at face value unless it contradicts the view of the funding party. After all, independent endorsement is fine and all, but it pales compared to being endorsed by the enemy.

    2. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      From what I read somewhere, the varying results depended on prior rates of police misbehaviour of the forces in question.

      They didn't make much difference for one force because the cops on that force behaved professionally even before the BWCs. They made a big difference on another force because those cops were a bunch of bullying arseholes and figured out they had to behave better if they had BWCs.

      BTW, I remember a video on youtube some months ago where some cops were too stupid to turn their cams off soon enough before planting some drugs in a hiding place so they could "discover" them. Some cops really are bastards, and they're the ones the BWCs protect us against.

    3. Harry Stottle

      Re: Really?

      "complaints falling by up to 90% etc "

      I agree. The balance of experience seems to be better than favourable already. But it is being done in a half assed way. They're capturing evidence and are essentially ignoring the rules of evidence, and the opportunity to make it mathematically verifiable. That omission is likely to be by design. They are probably aware that a bullet proof audit trail will severely constrain their freedom to abuse.

    4. Roguetech

      Re: Really?

      Link for the study referenced:

      The differences between the two studies are stark. In the study with this article, DC police were selected based on some arbitrary criteria (including whether they had scheduled leave and either an administrator or beat-cop). They only compared the non-camera control group to the those wearing cameras. And use of the camera was essentially voluntary ("[they] shall start... as soon as a call is initiated... or at the beginning of any self-initiated police action").

      In the Cambridge study you reference, EVERY officer in the departments either wore cameras or not (based on duty shift). In addition to comparing to the control groups, they also looked at overall department-wide effect (across seven different departments). And use of the cameras was compulsory and continuous. Also, of course, Cambridge University is widely recognized as a top-notch research facility, at least when compared to the mayor's office of Washington DC (specifically, "Office of the City Administrator's Office of Performance Management").

  12. Mage Silver badge

    solely from the deployment

    Unless miscreants (and supervisors) suffer due to fines, dismissals, prosecutions, demotions etc it will effect no change.

    1. silverfern

      Re: solely from the deployment

      Which means that enforcement (or not) of the use of bodycams is a management issue and until police management itself is straightened out, not a lot is going to happen. (Ditto police murders of African Americans in the US.)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Body cams seem only expected to catch cops...

    Meanwhile, LEO contacts I have tell me these cameras have actually saved their asses more than a few times against allegations and accusations. Surprising, and who knew, these cameras could actually watch suspects, as well?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are these manufactured by Schrödinger?

  15. unwarranted triumphalism

    Try obeying the law

    It's the one crazy trick the police DON'T want you to know. Means I never get 'hassled' by them.

    1. Ivan Vorpatril

      Re: Try obeying the law

      "It's the one crazy trick the police DON'T want you to know. Means I never get 'hassled' by them"

      If you are white, maybe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Try obeying the law

        "If you are white, maybe".

        Oh give over.

        If a certain contingent / race / sect/ of the population are habitually carrying weapons then why would it be deemed unreasonable to concentrate on that section of society.

        If a group of people were walking down the road with large sacks marked "swag", wearing stripy suits and and the police ignored them, you'd be outraged right?

        Well I'm outraged that some fucking do-gooder seems to feel that armed thugs shouldn't be stopped and searched.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Try obeying the law

          Wow, it's not even 10am and I get to read some cunt saying black people are violent weapon carrying thieves. You forgot "drug dealers" Donald.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Try obeying the law @cornz 1

          Back in my "hippy" days I always got stopped by customs when returning to the UK from Europe. They would spend ages searching my car while waving through men in suits driving a Mercedes. "That's the guys you should be searching!", I would tell them. If the customs guys just search stereotypes then they are failing to use their brains and I was not stupid enough to try and smuggle drugs.

    2. Marshalltown

      Re: Try obeying the law - won't always work

      Never getting hassled simply means you aren't a "modal" figure. I've been stopped and searched more than anyone of any human variation in appearance I know. I spent about six years - or maybe a couple more - not scaring the guys with guns at least once a month and occasionally twice a week. Never ticketed, never cited, never arrested. Asking "why" they stopped me, the answer's gist is that the police DO profile - and not just racially. If you are the right build, you may match the modal description for a possible "perp" - their words - of whatever race you belong to. So, the BOLO says "white, dark hair and beard, six foot, athletic build, blue jeans and boots, military jacket," and you match that, they stop and question you at the very least. Small, white Toyota pickups were apparently also popular with the criminal set. By the time it happened about 20 times, I knew the routine. That actually made some of them more suspicious. Some would get twitchier because I followed directions carefully.

  16. scrubber
    Big Brother

    Missing the point

    The authorities don't care whether they affect public or police behaviour, they just love the idea of having roving CCTV cameras linked to facial recognition software and all the other stuff we, the people paying for this dystopian nightmare, never asked for.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    why should plod behaviour change? If they do bad things and don't get punished why

    should they care?

    And only 1 person wearing one?

    So how's that work?

    "OK, Charlie you're wearing the plodcam today, so keep the nightstick on your belt for a change. Rest of you. Stay out of his line of sight if you have to give one of the perps a tune up."

  18. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Strange sample space

    Lived and worked in around DC. No idea how one goes about getting a statistically relevant subset of 'DC'. The place is strange - extremely high end upper class neighborhoods adjacent to crack alleys... more law enforcement agencies with conflicting turf and objectives than any normal city... a daytime population vastly greater than nighttime... and so forth.

    What I can tell you about cameras in the bedroom communities south of DC is that they've got a very strange failure mode. When more than a handful of cops are beating the crap out of an unarmed teenager - white or black - the BWC never seem to work. Strange, eh?

  19. jMcPhee

    Nothing new here...

    Our town's police (pronounced "poh-leece") have been (conveniently) losing VHS dashcam tapes for years.

  20. strum Silver badge

    I don't see how this study could assess one of the chief (potential) benefits of BWCs - an opportunity to rebuild trust between police and the policed. Transparency is better than obscurity - even if transparency sometimes exposes something you don't want exposed.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disingenuous study hypothesis

    They appear to be saying that because the body-cameras do not change the behaviors of police, they are useless, and so a waste of money.

    This is a dangerous twisting of intention. If body-cameras being worn by police improves their behavior, bonus! However even if not, it provides evidence, and even the absence of a working camera can be instructive, especially when it fails at key moments, or even less probably, multiple cameras fail.

  22. Kiwi Silver badge

    Something to consider...

    I am upset/angry to the point of very irrational behaviour, and/or I no longer care about the damage I do while expressing my dislike of the world at large.

    A police officer wearing a camera approaches me. Am I

    1) Going to suddenly find a way to act rationally and calmly, and settle down, or

    2) Going to at best remain the the same state, or

    3) Find the presence of the officer as yet another aggravating factor (with or without noticing the camera).

    In some cases 4) Want to destroy the evidence housed on said camera.

    In some cases 1 may be possible, but then talking to the person calmly might also be enough to change the situation. Where a person is deeply fearful or angry or otherwise upset, the presence or absence of a camera will make little difference.

    OTOH, at least - if said cops can't "accidentally" delete footage or "forget" to turn on said cameras, having them recording video and audio would be something people could use in court when the cops step out of line. Somehow I feel a complainant might have a hard time getting a copy of footage that shows the officer to be acting up unless they take such footage themselves. And manage to take it without coppers confiscating their gear, even when being used perfectly legally.

  23. technoise

    An unarmed Australian woman was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer from the passenger seat of his squad car, and strangely neither the dashboard camera or body mounted cameras were switched on at the time.

    Their use will have to be automatically monitored and officers with non-functioning cameras automatically recalled from duty to have them fixed, if these cameras are to be fit for purpose in safeguarding the rights of the public.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      "[...] these cameras are to be fit for purpose in safeguarding the rights of the public"

      Have a pint. You have nailed it and gotten us to the heart of the problem.

      Indeed these should be fit for the purpose of safeguarding our rights. At least in my chunk of the USA the coppers seem to believe they are only fit for purpose in covering themselves from liability.

      So long as the primary goal of the police is to actually defend us and our rights, the ultimate outcome from pursuit of these objectives is the same.

      Today though citizen's rights are on life support and the liability lawyer is king; hence any footage that increases liability- such as the murder of the Australian woman- is destined for the memory hole

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Their use will have to be automatically monitored and officers with non-functioning cameras automatically recalled from duty to have them fixed, if these cameras are to be fit for purpose in safeguarding the rights of the public."

      And if the cameras LIE that they're working when in fact they're not, and there's no way to check this in the field?

  24. Roguetech

    There have been demonstrated effects.

    So the question isn't **if** they help, rather... well, why the hell police still commit abuses even knowing it's being recorded (at least, when the police don't turn them off for their beatings or "lose" the recording). It's not a hard question to answer, unless you're a Republican.

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