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Study shows policy is largest factor for police camera participation

Researchers have completed a study of body-camera use by Phoenix police. The study looked at more than 146,000 police-citizen incidents. 

When officers were required to turn on their cameras after arriving to a scene, they did so in about 40% of incidents. However, after policies changed to require camera activation while en route, participation rose to about 73%.

ASU criminology professor Charles Katz is the study’s co-author. He says participation is at about 90% now, but not everyone turned on cameras at similar rates. 

“Female officers were significantly less likely to turn on their cameras than male officers. That was a bit surprising to us. And then we did see some variation in terms of precinct, in which precincts and their activation rates with some lagging behind others.” Katz said. 

The research found female officers participated about 59% of the time, and white officers participated at slightly lower rates than non-white officers 67% of the time. 

Katz said the nature of the study limited what researchers were able to determine about the varying participation rates. It also prevented researchers from generalizing the findings beyond the department. 

But the data showed body camera use made people more comfortable and protected officers against complaints, as well. 

He says Phoenix’s police department was the first in the U.S. to study body camera activation rates. 

“Right now what we’re doing is looking at what body worn camera data look like, and how it’s going to benefit the police in terms of decision making in the future. Body worn camera data have all sorts of utility built into it.” Katz said.

He added the department has some of the highest body camera

The study was published in the journal  Justice Quarterly.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S Department of Justice supported research.

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.