Body Cameras Reduce Force in Police-Citizen Encounters

Police-Citizen Encounters

Police Car Closeup on Door – Police Cruiser Wraps. Traffic Safety Photo Collection.

Christian DenmonA pioneering study on police camera with the Rialto, California Police Department foundthat the use of body cameras reduced use of force incidents by police by almost 60 percent. 

Even more startling?  The number of formal complaints filed by citizens agains the police force went down 90 percent.

Whats going on here?


Simply Put, We All Act Differently When We Think Someone Else Is Watching.

Numerous studies have verified this, including:

  • A study in the 1980’s asked the question: Do men wash their hands more when a third party is in a public restroom with them? The results were that men wash their hands only half as much when another person is in the restroom.
  • Another study found that kids trick-or-treating on holloween take substantially more candy out of a bowl when a mirror is above them than when no mirror is around.
  • Yet another study found that the mere existence of a picture on a wall with eyes increased good behavior by individuals.

We know this from our common sense as well.

Consider that Santa Claus is making his list, checking it twice, and using his crystal ball to see who is naughty or nice.

Parents know that children behavior better in December when Santa is on his way.

This principal has led tot he universal success of “Elf on the Shelf”, an elf sent by Santa to sit on the shelf and watch a child every day, and who then goes back to report to Santa on the behavior of the child.

Likely The Police And The Citizen Act Better When The Camera Is On

Importantly, it appears the existence of the camera might result in better behavior by both the police and the citizen.

The lowering of use of force by the police may very well be a synergistic combination of a more cognizant officer and a more controlled citizen.

And the formal complaints to law enforcement going down 90%?

It is quite possible that the amnount of friviolous complaints by citizens dropped as well.

In any case, while privacy concerns remain, the indicications that cameras lower use of force in the wake of Ferguson and the like is something that can’t be ignored and should lead to increased testing of cameras in forces around the nation.

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