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The Achilles Heel of Police Body-Worn Cameras: Understanding the Factors That Influence Variation in Body-Worn Camera Activation

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 40 Issue: 3 Dated: 2023 Pages: 315-336
Date Published
22 pages

This paper examines data on the impact of body-worn camera activation during police-citizen interactions; it discusses the various factors based on individual, situational, organizational, and neighborhood situations that influence an officer’s decision to turn on the body-worn camera.


While body-worn cameras (BWCs) are increasingly becoming commonplace in police organizations, researchers and policymakers still know little about their implementation in the field and the factors related to their actual use. Using data collected from 146,601 incidents in Phoenix, Arizona, this article discusses a research study examined the prevalence and correlates of BWC activation. In their research, the authors examined the impact of incident-level factors, officer characteristics, neighborhood context, and changes in BWC activation policy on whether an officer who was assigned to wear a BWC activates the camera during a police-citizen contact. Cross-classified models were used to simultaneously assess the influence of factors at multiple levels of explanation. The authors’ analysis suggests that a wide variety of individual, situational, organizational, and neighborhood factors are related to an officer’s decision to activate their camera. BWC policy that confines, structures, and checks officer activation seems to have a robust impact on an officer’s decision to activate their BWC. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023