Body worn video

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VideoBadge in use by a West Midlands Police officer
A computer generated rendering of a typical body-worn camera

Body worn video (BWV), also known as body cameras and body-worn cameras, is a video recording system that is typically utilized by law enforcement to record their interactions with the public or gather video evidence at crime scenes, and has been known to increase both officer and citizen accountability; although arguments have been made that BWVs primarily protect police.[1] BWVs are notable because their placement, often on the front of a shirt, provides for first-person perspective and a more complete chain of evidence. BWV is a form of closed-circuit television.


United Kingdom

Body worn video cameras were first adopted by Danish Police,[2] but the first testing of body worn cameras in the UK in 2005 received far more media-coverage. The test was begun on a small-scale by Devon and Cornwall Police.[2] In 2006, the first significant deployments of BWV at the national level were undertaken by the Police Standards Unit (PSU) as part of the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaign (DVEC). The basic command units equipped with the head cameras recorded everything that happened during an incident from the time of arrival which led to the "preservation of good-quality first disclosure evidence from the victim". The evidence gathered was deemed especially useful in the way of supporting prosecutions if the victim was reluctant to give evidence or press charges. This led the Home Office to publish a report stating that "evidence gathering utilising this equipment has the potential radically to enhance the police performance at the scene of a wide range of incidents".[3] In the same report, the Home Office concluded that the body worn camera system used in Devon and Cornwall had "the ability to significantly improve the quality of the evidence provided by police officers at incidents". However, mostly due to the limitations of the then available technology, it was also recommended that police forces should await the completion of successful trials and projects to re-evaluate the technology before investing in cameras. By July 2007, the Home Office was beginning to encourage the emerging industry and published another document entitled "Guidance for the Police use of Body Worn Cameras". The report was based on the first national pilot of BWV conducted in Plymouth. Tony McNulty MP, Minister of State for Security, Counter Terrorism and Police wrote a foreword that held BWV in a promising light: "The use of body-worn video has the potential to improve significantly the quality of evidence provided by police officers…video recording from the scene of an incident will capture compelling evidence…that could never be captured in written statements." Despite being hailed as a tool to enhance the quality of evidence, the focus was beginning to shift away from exclusively benefitting prosecutions. The Home Office highlighted that BWV also had the significant potential to "prevent and deter crime". In addition, the final report on the National Pilot for BWV announced that complaints against the officers wearing the cameras had been reduced to zero and time spent on paperwork had been reduced by 22.4%, which led to a 9.2% increase in officer time spent on patrol ("50 minutes of a 9-hour shift").

Following the national pilot BWV began to gain some traction in the UK and, by 2008, Hampshire Police began to use the technology in parts of the Isle of Wight and the main land. These were the first steps that paved the way for Chief Constable Andy Marsh becoming the national lead for BWV. Pioneers of BWV in the UK began to drive the need to review the legislation surrounding the use of the equipment. In 2009 the Security Industry Authority concluded that a CCTV licence could be extended to cover the use of a body camera. The summary stated that a CCTV licence was required to review footage from a body camera and that a door supervision or security guard licence was required to operate a body camera if security activities were also being performed. In 2010, 5 years after the first BWV venture, over 40 UK police areas were using body cameras to varying degrees. Grampian Police were one such force that initiated a trial in July 2010 which paved the way for the Paisley and Aberdeen body worn video project in 2011. The project was considered a huge success and it was identified that the benefits saved an estimated minimum of £400,000 per year due to the following:

  • Increase public reassurance;
  • Reduce fear of crime in local communities;
  • Increase early guilty pleas;
  • Resolve complaints about the police or wardens more quickly;
  • Reduce assaults on officers.

The concluding sections of the report on the Paisley and Aberdeen project turned the attention to the digital, back end solutions for BWV. Now that the benefits of using body cameras were being realised, the implications on the digital infrastructure were being called into question. The report suggested providing "robust central IT support" to have established the processes behind information gathering and monitoring. In 2013 the Home Office released an updated code of practice for surveillance cameras, in which Principle 8 included the use of body cameras, stating: "Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards". 2013 also saw the start of Operation Hyperion, a Hampshire Police initiative on the Isle of Wight that equipped every frontline police officer with a personal issue body worn camera, the biggest project of its kind at the time. Sergeant Steve Goodier oversaw the project and was adamant that the project would drive legislative changes to free up further uses for body worn cameras. He said "I strongly believe we could make some small changes to legislation that can have a big impact on officers.

"PACE was written in 1984 at a time when BWV was not around…We want to get the legislation changed so that BWV could replace the need for hand written statements from officers when it is likely that an early guilty plea would be entered at court or that the incident could be dealt with a caution or community resolution."

United States

In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner, police use of body camera technology has become a topic of national debate. In fact, on December 1, 2014, President Barack Obama "proposed reimbursing communities half the cost of buying cameras and storing video—a plan that would require Congress to authorize $75 million over three years to help purchase 50,000 recording devices".[4] A November 2014 survey of police departments serving the 100 most populous U.S. cities, Vocativ found that "41 cities use body cams on some of their officers, 25 have plans to implement body cams and 30 cities do not use or plan to use cams at this time". The following cities have body cam technology in place: Oakland and San Diego, California; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Mesa, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; and Miami, Florida.[5]

Police unions in several U.S. cities, such as New York City (the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents the NYPD),[6] Las Vegas,[7] and Jersey City, New Jersey.[8] St. Louis, Missouri,[9] expressed doubts and/or opposition to BMVs. Specifically, union officials expressed concerns about possible distraction and safety issues, and questioned "whether all the footage filmed by body cameras will be accessible via public-records requests, whether victims of domestic violence will be hesitant to call police if they know they will be filmed and whether paying for the cameras and maintenance will lead to cuts elsewhere in the police budget".[8] Others have worried about a "gotcha discipline".[9] Some unions have argued that it was "mandatory" for police departments to include provisions about BMVs cameras in union contracts because it would be a "clear change in working conditions" as well as something that could "impact an officer’s safety".[7]

The American Civil Liberties Union is an organization that has been a major proponent of body cameras on officers.[10] The ACLU has advocated body camera use for both police departments and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,[11] granted that safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of both officers and civilians.[12] However, they have opposed the use of such systems for parking enforcement officers, fire marshals, building inspectors, or other code enforcement officers.[13] Some police departments in the United States, such as the Albuquerque Police Department and Rialto Police Department, have experimented with or deployed body-worn camera systems.

In 2012, the National Institute of Justice at the United States Department of Justice issued a primer regarding laws, policies, practices, and technology for local police departments to consider.[14]


Some police services in Canada such as the Calgary Police Service have trialed body-worn video systems since 2012, and have recently adopted body-cameras for deployment by all officers beginning in 2017.[15] Police unions in Canada have been opposed to body-worn video systems, citing privacy and cost concerns.[16] In 2015, several city police units including those in Winnipeg and Montreal announced plans to experiment with the technology.[15] The Toronto Police Service is in the midst of a year-long pilot study of body-worn cameras with 100 officers using the technology. The service will decide after May, 2016 if they will fully adopt the technology.[17]


In some parts of Germany, police services have used body-worn video systems since 2013.[18] Police in a growing number of regional states (the Länder) use bodycams.[19] Detailed information is available on the use of these cameras in five Länder. In Hessen, the police was the first force in Germany to use bodycams in May 2013.[20] After this 'succesful' pilot, more bodycams have been acquired for other areas in Hessen.[21] In Rheinland-Pfalz bodycams are in use since July 2015 in the cities of Mainz and Koblenz to reduce violence towards the police and to collect footage that can be used as evidence. The costs of these bodycams was 18.500 euro.[22] Based on the positive experiences, eighty more bodycams have been acquired to be deployed in more areas in these two cities. In Hamburg, one of five members in each team that surveils during weekends is equipped with a bodycam since June 2015. These cameras can be pointed in different directions by manually operated remote control.[23] In Bavaria, since 2016, bodycams are used in Munich, Augsburg and Rosenheim. The cameras have to be activated in critical situations and at dangerous locations, for instance in nightlife entertainment areas where fighting is a common occurence.[24] In Baden-Württemberg, bodycams are deployed in Stuttgart, Mannheim and Freiburg since 2016.[25] The aim here is to test the bodycams during one year with the aim of reducing violence against the police.[26] Starting in February 2016, the German federal police is also testing bodycams at trainstations in Berlin, Köln, Düsseldorf and Munich.[27][28]


The number of body-worn cameras in use by the police of Australia is growing increasingly prevalent in parallel with other countries. The first bodycams or 'cop-cams' were trialled in Western Australia in 2007. Victoria has been trialling body-worn cameras since 2012, and in 2015 the NSW police announced they had invested $4 million to roll out body-worn cameras to frontline police officers. According to research being conducted in 2016 'the use of body-worn cameras has now gathered traction in most Australian states and territories'.[29]


Bodycam used by police Utrecht, The Netherlands
Bodycam used by local law enforcement in Amsterdam

The first small-scale experiments with 'bodycams' by the Dutch police date back to 2008. The first large-scale coordinated experiment was conducted from 2009 through 2011 and took place in four of the 25 regional police-forces. The pilot was aimed at reducing violence against the police. The results were disappointing, largely due to technical problems with recordings and 'wearability' of the equipment.[30] Following this evaluation, the Department of Justice concluded that bodycams were not ready to be 'rolled out' on a larger scale. Since then, however, regional and local experiments with bodycams have been undertaken. According to a survey conducted by the Dutch public broadcasting corporation (NOS) in 2011, 10 of the 25 regional police forces were using body worn video.[31] In November 2015, the Dutch National Police published a programme regarding the integration of 'sensing' capabilities into police activities. The programme mainly focuses on CCTV, Automatic Number Plate Recognition and bodycams.[32]

Other organizations that use bodycams include local law enforcement agencies such as the Amsterdam city wardens surveilling taxis, and safety personnel present at football matches or public events such as festivals or protest-demonstrations.

Effects of body worn video

Monitor police behavior

Police body cameras have been proven to be an effective way to monitor police behavior. A study concluded that when 46 randomly selected officers were chosen to wear video recording devices against 43 officers who were not, there was a 53% decrease in use-of-force incidents reported and civilian complaints dropped by nearly 65%.[33]

Video as evidence or for reconstruction of events

Video recording devices an also provide documented footage into the behavior of law enforcement officers, video(s) can be used in the court of law and the cameras can encourage honesty and dispel any false accusations made by any parties. Although deemed as expensive ranging between $400-$1,200, body cameras can promote positive, civilized and appropriate behaviors.[34]

Increase police legitimacy/accountability

A 2015 poll by Reuters found that 31% of Americans believe that police lie regularly.[35] Body cameras worn by police have been shown to increase accountability of police in some instances. For example, in June 2013, two Daytona Beach police officers approached 37-year-old Christine Chippewa in a parking lot under Seabreeze Bridge. The officers subsequently arrested her, after one turned off his camera. After Chippewa's arrest, she filed a complaint of excessive force and the department investigated. Officer Justin Ranum resigned, and Officer Matthew Booth was reportedly fired. The complainant received a $20,000 settlement with the city of Daytona Beach and all charges against her were dropped.[36]

Assaults against officers

A study by researchers at Cambridge based on camera use on 2,122 officers across the United States and Britain (in total about 2.2 million work hours) was conducted in 2016. It concluded that assaults against police officers increased by about 15% while wearing cameras, but the data was insufficient to conclude exactly why.[37][38]

Rialto and Mesa studies' results

A University of Cambridge study found that there was a 59% reduction in use of force by officers in Rialto, California after the police department began issuing body-worn cameras to officers, and that complaints fell by 87% compared to the previous year.[39][40] Another study found that police officers assigned to wear body-worn cameras in Mesa, Arizona were less likely to stop-and-frisk or arrest people, but "were more likely to give citations and initiate encounters." The authors concluded that the officers are more proactive with the use of these cameras, but that they are not more likely to use invasive strategies "that may threaten the legitimacy of the organization."[41]

See also


  1. Pelt, Mason. "Do police body cameras protect the public?". SiliconANGLE. Retrieved 5 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Press (13 July 2007). "Britain straps video cameras to police helmets". NBC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Home Office (October 2006). "Lessons Learned from the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaigns 2006" (PDF). Police and Crime Standards Directorate. Retrieved 2014-04-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Peter Hermann; Rachel Weiner (2 December 2014). "Issues over police shooting in Ferguson lead push for officers and body cameras". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Abigail Tracy; E.J. Fox (15 November 2014). "Is Your Police Force Wearing Body Cameras?". Vocativ.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Pervaiz Shallwani (September 4, 2014). "NYPD Unveil Two Cameras for Officers". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schoenmann, Joe (7 May 2012). "Metro's decision to test body-mounted cameras". Las Vegas Sun.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Terrence T. McDonald (5 December 2014). "Jersey City cops urge caution on plan for police body cameras". The Jersey Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Alissa Reitmeier (16 September 2014). "Tension rises between St. Louis Police, union over body cameras". KMOV.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Stanley, Jay. "POLICE BODY-MOUNTED CAMERAS: WITH RIGHT POLICIES IN PLACE, A WIN FOR ALL". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 21 April 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Strengthening CBP with the Use of Body-Worn Cameras" (PDF). 27 June 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2014. The use of body-worn cameras, deployed within an appropriate policy framework that includes strong privacy protections for officers/agents and the public, should be promptly piloted by CBP and then expanded to cover all CBP enforcement encounters with the public.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Body-Worn Cameras Should Not Expand Beyond Law Enforcement". ACLU blog. 29 August 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2014. The Guardian reported last week that Miami Beach is planning on expanding the use of body cameras beyond the police to include "meter maids", code enforcement officers, and building and fire inspectors. This use of the technology does not make sense... I am not aware of any cases of building inspectors shooting unarmed civilians in the course of their work. The fact is, these jobs do not come with the frightening powers that police officers possess, and so do not need the same kinds of checks on those powers. Deploying body cameras on these workers would bring all the downsides of police body cams—including in some cases filming inside private homes—without any of the benefits. The balance is completely different.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All". 9 October 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2014. For the ACLU, the challenge of on-officer cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability. Overall, we think they can be a win-win—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they protect the public without becoming yet another system for routine surveillance of the public, and maintain public confidence in the integrity of those privacy protections. Without such a framework, their accountability benefits would not exceed their privacy risks.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. "A primer on Body Worn Cameras for law enforcement" (PDF). National Institute of Justice. Retrieved 15 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 Benjamin Shingler (20 January 2014). "Canadian police forces looking to arm officers with cameras". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 4 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Body-worn cameras to be on all front-line Calgary police within about a year".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Toronto Police Body Cameras".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. " Kamera-Cops, Weitere Bundesländer erwägen Body-Cams bei Polizei-Einsätzen" (in German). <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Kamera-Cops: Weitere Bundesländer erwägen Body-Cams bei Polizei-Einsätzen". 8 August 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Polizeipräsidium Frankfurt am Main (2014-10-01). "Bewertungen und Planungen der Landesregierung zum Einsatz sog. Body-Cams im Bereich der Polizei - Abschlussbericht des Polizeipräsidiums Frankfurt a. M. vom 01.10.2014" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Body-Cams werden ab kommendem Jahr in ganz Hessen eingesetzt". 2014-10-01. Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Frank Schmidt-Wyk (2015-06-08). "Gewalt gegen Polizisten verringern: Rheinland-Pfalz testet Einsatz von Bodycams in Mainz". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Peter-Michael Ziegler (2015-06-19). "Polizei Hamburg mit Bodycams: "Achtung, Aufnahme!"". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Bayerns Polizei bekommt Body-Cams". 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2015-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Josef Kelnberger (2016-02-02). "Vorsicht, Kamera". Retrieved 2016-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Testlauf mit Schulterkameras kommt". 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2016-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "BPOLD STA: Bundespolizei erprobt mobile Körperkameras "BodyCams" sollen Gewalttäter abschrecken". 2016-01-29. Retrieved 2016-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Matthias Monroy (2016-01-29). "Videoüberwachung mit "Bodycams": Polizei in Köln und Düsseldorf hängt sich Warnschilder um". Retrieved 2016-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Emmeline Taylor (2016). "Lights, Camera, Redaction... Police Body Worn Cameras, Autonomy, Discretion, and Accountability". Surveillance and Society.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Report on the evaluation of the first experiments with body worn video (in Dutch)
  31. NOS (2009), Politie tijdens jaarwisseling uitgerust met bodycam, 29 december 2009
  32. Waarnemen met technische hulpmiddelen bij de politie
  33. "Study Shows Less Violence, Fewer Complaints When Cops Wear Body Cameras". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Police Body Cameras: Pros And Cons For Officers And Citizens |". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Bill Schneider. "Breaking down the numbers: One third of Americans believe police lie routinely". Reuters. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. Do police officers "routinely lie to serve their own interests?" Thirty-one percent of Americans believe they do, and that number rises to 45 percent among African-Americans, 41 percent among young people and 39 percent among Democrats. Republicans reject that charge three to one (60 to 20 percent).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Justin Warmoth (May 15, 2014). "Daytona Beach police officer resigns after body camera turned off during arrest".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  38. "Body-worn cameras associated with increased assaults against police, and increase in use-of-force if officers choose when to activate cameras". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 24 May 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  40. "First scientific report shows police body-worn-cameras can prevent unacceptable use-of-force". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).