This feature is part of Correction1’s “2023 guide to body-worn cameras.” Download the complete report here.

Since their release, body-worn cameras (BWCs) have become an essential part of the American policing model. A 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report studied the use of BWC by general-purpose law enforcement agencies and found the following:

80% of large police agencies have purchased BWCs
60% of police agencies and 49% of sheriffs’ offices who had purchased BWCs had fully implemented them

When questioned, BWC vendors and police agencies state that the most common reasons for implementing a BWC program were to improve officer safety, increase evidence quality, reduce complaints and reduce agency liability. [2] As an added benefit, BWC footage has created an almost endless supply of real-world scenarios that can be used to improve the training experience of new and seasoned officers.

It goes without saying that the proliferation of BWCs in a post-Ferguson world has created the expectation that not only will police officers be outfitted with BWCs, but that video captured during an incident will be available to the public. Further, many agency heads have begun to release BWC footage as quickly as possible to avoid the perception of a coverup and to provide the officer’s perspective for comparison against civilian cellphone videos that are often posted within minutes of an incident occurring or as the incident is unfolding. With all of this in mind, you would be hard-pressed to find a police administrator who doesn’t agree that the reputational and financial liability of a single critical incident can far outweigh the cost of a BWC program.