Scholars in Britain studied police officers in both the U.K. and California to see whether their wearing of body cameras made any difference in policing. According to a report in the Guardian, they did: Body cameras, as per the scholars, represent the possibility of a “profound sea change in modern policing,” creating an “equilibrium between the account of the officer and the account of the suspect about the same event.”
What do they mean about equilibrium?
Put simply, in general, the police have their version of what happened. The police version often differs – sometimes substantially – from what the suspect and eyewitnesses say happened. (And, to be fair, sometimes there’s very little difference in the versions, at least no substantive difference.) Most of the time, though, the facts aren’t quite the facts – unless there is a body camera to help sort things out.
A reduction of complaints against police by 93%
The most startling figure (in a good way) was the 93 percent reduction in complaints made against police when body cameras were present. According to the Guardian, the study authors analyzed 4,000 shifts completed by police officers in the U.K. and California, which represented roughly 1.5 million hours worked.
There were 1,539 complaints made against officers in the year prior to the study. In the period of time during which the study was conducted, there were only 133 complaints – a huge reduction.
The Guardian quoted study co-author Alex Sutherland:
“With a complaints reduction of nearly 100% across the board, we find it difficult to consider alternatives, to be honest.”