A recent study conducted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas showed that use of force complaints dropped significantly at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) after the agency deployed body cameras.
The year-long study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, began in 2014 and concluded in 2015. The study evaluated 416 officers, 218 of whom wore body cameras. Researchers unveiled the following findings:
- A 37% reduction in use-of-force complaints against officers wearing body-worn cameras
- A 4% increase in use-of-force complaints against officers not wearing body-worn cameras
- An 8% increase in citations issued by officers wearing body-worn cameras
- A 6% increase in arrests made by officers wearing body-worn cameras
“The results of this study by UNLV validate what we have been seeing all along – the body-worn camera has taken an out-of-focus picture and made it clear,” says Clark County, Nevada Sheriff Joseph Lombardo. “While some officers initially feared the devices would be intrusive, many now embrace the technology because video can prove or disprove accounts by arrestees and witnesses.”
The study should not be surprising but the context and talking points of the study has been abused by some. Some reports allege that “police brutality” has been reduced because of the body cameras and according to SAFETAC Trainer Travis Yates, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The idea that wearing body cameras reduces police brutality or use of force has never been proven and I doubt it ever will considering that law enforcement use of force is extremely rare and when used, it is almost always appropriate whether a camera is in use or not,” Yates told us.
What does occur with body cameras according to Yates is exactly what has been seen in Las Vegas.
“When suspects know that their encounter is being recorded, they are less likely to complain and when that complaint occurs, the video will serve as the evidence to in all likelihood clear the officer,” Yates said.
Yates continued, “Everyone wants to come at this issue with the preconceived notion that law enforcement is doing something wrong when in fact, law enforcement is the most trained and most professional it has ever been and body cameras will only serve the purpose of showing that.”
Pointing to the recent Washington DC Study, Yates says that while some thought that body cameras would show a corrupt profession, they show the opposite and for that reason, law enforcement should embrace the technology.
Robert Johnson is a 20 year veteran law enforcement officer currently working at a large metropolitan agency. His assignments have included narcotics, gangs and training. He joined Law Officer in 2017 as an Associate Editor.