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Do the Effects of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Complaints Change Over Time? Results From a Panel Analysis in the Milwaukee Police Department

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 48 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2021 Pages: 734-754
Bryce E. Peterson ; Daniel S. Lawrence
Date Published
November 2021
21 pages

Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) can help improve transparency, accountability, and policing behaviors. This study extends prior BWC research by using a panel analysis design with a measure of treatment duration to examine how the effects of BWCs change over time.


Using data from the Milwaukee Police Department (N = 1,009), the study proposed and tested two competing hypotheses: The program maturity hypothesis suggests that BWCs will be more effective at reducing use of force and complaints over time; whereas, the program fatigue hypothesis expects BWCs to be less effective the longer officers wear BWCs. The study found that BWCs reduced complaints overall and that, over time, each additional month with a camera resulted in 6 percent fewer complaints. There was no overall relationship between BWCs and use of force, but the treatment duration model suggests that there was an immediate decrease in use-of-force incidents, followed by a gradual increase in subsequent months. (publisher abstract modified)