Body-Worn Cameras and Internal Accountability at a Police Agency

Marthinus Koen 1 * , Brooke Mathna 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp. 1-22

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Existing research on body-worn cameras have primarily focused on certain policing outcomes (e.g., citizen complaints and use-of-force), however, only a handful of research to date has considered how the implementation of body-worn cameras have impacted internal organizational processes at police departments. Using semi-structured interviews, a survey, and ride-along observations, we examined how body-worn cameras impacted the way police officers were held or felt accountable for their behavior. The study was conducted at the Sunnyvale Police Department (pseudonym), a small city agency in the United States that had been using cameras for two and a half years. Particularly, we describe how body-worn cameras impacted accountability at Sunnyvale within different organizational contexts that included reporting, citizen interactions, training, and supervision. Consistent with the hopes of reformers, body-worn cameras did seem to raise the general sense of accountability as they became a part of training, citizen encounters, reporting, and supervision. However, these changes were not like reformers would have imagined, as the department did not intently use cameras in a way to hold officers any more accountable for their conduct and performance on the street. 

Keywords: Police Accountability, Police Technology, Body-Worn Cameras.