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Phoenix, Arizona, Smart Policing Initiative: Evaluating the Impact of Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2015
20 pages

This report presents the methodology and findings of a federally funded project that assessed the Phoenix Police Department's (Arizona) purchase, deployment, and impact of body-worn cameras (BWCs).


This report concludes that the potential benefits of BWCs are significant, and the technology can positively redefine police encounters with citizens; however, none of the perceived benefits of BWCs can be realized if officers do not embrace the technology. BWC benefits can only be realized if the camera is turned on when officers are engaged in encounters with citizens. In this project, compliance with camera activation policy was generally low (20-29 percent of encounters), and activation varied by offense type. Cameras were less likely to be activated for domestic-violence and violent offense calls. Officer perceptions of the technology changed notably over time. Most of these changes were positive, such as greater perceived ease and comfort and greater recognition of BWC benefits. This report identifies and discusses lessons learned for the police manager and for the line officer. A lesson that applies to both line officers and managers is to be realistic about the impact of BWCs. In this regard, the report advises that there are limits to what a BWC program can achieve, especially in communities where the police-citizen relationship is one of longstanding anger and mistrust. BWCs on their own cannot alter that relationship, but a well-implemented BWC program can be a starting point for police to demonstrate efforts at transparency and a willingness to be held accountable for their actions. The Phoenix SPI study showed the citizen complaints decreased significantly (23 percent) among camera-wearing officers. 4 tables and 2 figures

Date Published: September 1, 2015