Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are touted by law enforcement agencies for its ability to uphold transparency and accountability. No doubt, BWCs are beneficial in the overall goal of justice, but what is rarely examined is the impact of BWCs to the branches of the criminal justice system that are working behind the scenes. Are the voices of the other involved actors being heard as to how this technology is impacting their work?
This course’s resource speakers are Dr. Janne E. Gaub and Dr. Carolyn Naoroz. Janne is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She also serves as a Subject-Matter Expert for the Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Policy and Implementation Program Training and Technical Assistance Mechanism. Meanwhile, Carolyn is the Body-Worn Camera Management Analyst for the Richmond Police Department. She is also an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Criminology at Randolph-Macon College and the interim Co-Chair of IACP’s Police Research Advancement Section.
Together, they discuss the available research on BWC programs, zeroing in on how it impacts downstream criminal justice actors such as judges, juries, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. Specifics include:
- The events that gave rise to the government’s efforts to help agencies promote effective crime reduction while building public trust and safeguarding officer well-being.
- The benefits of implementing a BWC program and the significant federal funding being provided to support law enforcement agencies in doing so.
- How numerous agencies rushed into adopting BWCs following the Ferguson unrest despite the lack of studies that took into account the concerns and nitty gritty of implementing such program.
- Older studies that only look into direct outcomes of the program to law enforcement and how more recent researches are filling in the gaps by looking at indirect outcomes and other stakeholders.
- How BWCs impact the courts, its actors, processes, and outcomes through evidentiary value and increased efficiency.
- A glimpse into Richmond, Virginia’s BWC Program, the education efforts they put into place, and the proposed legislation that considers the program’s impact for the criminal justice actors.
- An overview of the public defenders and its role in the justice system.
- Unpacking the Virginia Public Defender Project which provided the public defense with an avenue to voice out their views on BWC programs.
- The Virginia BWC program based on the public defenders’ perspective as to how it impacts their work.
- The benefits through the truth telling capacity and how it drives efficiency in preparation, client management and case disposition.
- The challenges that come with the sheer volume of the footage, making judgment calls and triaging which footages are important, and the disconnect between how public defenders and prosecutors evaluate BWC footages.
- The opportunities for reform in terms of the discovery process, the manpower and legal requirement for screening the footages, and the resources required to support the technology.
- The future of BWC programs that depends on:
- Further research as to how it impacts different groups and stakeholders.
- Legislation that irons out polices and best practices.
- Lessons learned from the new normal COVID brought on how to integrate technology to the justice system.
- Inter-agency cooperation efforts and integration that best advance the overall cause of justice.
Audience questions were about:
- The additional work to law enforcement brought by processing BWC footages.
- Best practices on sharing BWC footages to stakeholders and viewing footages for those involved in a critical incident.
- Accessing the different studies regarding the effectivity and impact of BWCs.
- AI solutions for the additional workload brought about by BWCs.
Webinars with this Speaker
- Jan 14: Understanding the Impact of Body-Worn Cameras on Public Defenders (this webinar)
- March 31: The Impact of COVID-19 on Policing: The Perspective of the Rank and File
Resources and Handouts
- Body Worn Camera Training and Technical Assistance – List of Articles and other resources
- “Value of BWV when making the decision to prosecute. It is something I consider extensively when reviewing cases for our Prosecutors.” — James
- “The additional volume of work required with the implementation of BWCs and the additional skill sets required.” — Richard
- “Loved that the speakers discussed current research on the topic!” — Samantha
- “Knowledge of the use of body cams relating to court cases and all parties involved.” — Steven
- “Benefits and concerns regarding BWC footage and the follow-up question on writing UOF reports before or after viewing footage. This would be a good topic for future seminars. How departments should utilize BWC footage and best practices gleaned from experience and studies.” — Garth