Unlike protests against police brutality in the past (2014 and earlier), police officers responding to First Amendment-protected demonstrations in summer 2020 likely were wearing body-worn cameras(BWCs). This study seeks to understand police perceptions of the effects of BWCs when used in the George Floyd protests.
The authors use survey data from 100 agencies with federally-funded BWCs to assess the prevalence of BWC deployment to George Floyd protests and perceived benefits and limitations of the technology within this unique context. Findings About three-quarters of agencies encountered some level of demonstration/protest related to the killing of George Floyd, and the majority of those deployed BWCs during these demonstrations. Respondents indicated evidentiary value of footage was a key reason for doing so, and at least three preconditions for a civilizing effect were present. Originality/value Research has documented numerous benefits associated with BWCs, from reductions in use of force and citizen complaints to evidentiary value. However, the extent to which BWC benefits extend to public protests is unclear. The George Floyd protests represent an opportunity to understand the prevalence and usefulness of BWCs in policing public protests.