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Body-Worn Cameras, Lawful Police Stops, and NYPD Officer Compliance: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

NCJ Number
Criminology: An Interdisciplinary Journal Volume: 60 Issue: 1 Dated: 2021 Pages: 1-35
Date Published
35 pages

This article reports on an examination of the effects of body-worn cameras on a series of activity, civility, and lawfulness outcomes across 40 police precincts in New York City, and suggests that the available evidence on body-worn cameras has generated inconsistent effects on a range of police and citizen behaviors.


The federal court settlement of Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. (2013) mandated that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) implement a series of reforms to address unlawful stop, question, and frisk patterns and practices. Among other changes, the remedial order required the NYPD to implement and evaluate a pilot body-worn camera program to determine whether outfitting officers with the technology led to more lawful and civil police-citizen encounters. A cluster randomized controlled trial involving 40 police precincts and 3,889 NYPD officers was used to evaluate the effects of body-worn cameras on a series of police work activity, civility, and lawfulness outcomes. Relative to control officers, citizen complaints against treatment officers outfitted with body-worn cameras were reduced by 21 percent. Treatment officers, however, also filed nearly 39 percent more stop reports when compared with control officers. Treatment-stop reports tended to involve minority subjects, were less likely to involve arrests and summons, and were significantly more likely to be rated as not meeting constitutional justifications for stops, frisks, and searches. These results suggest that body-worn cameras improved NYPD officer compliance with mandates to document all stops and could be used to address unlawful policing through better detection of problematic police-citizen encounters. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2021