Measuring the effect of body-worn cameras on complaints in Latin America

Renée J. Mitchell (Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Barak Ariel (Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK) (Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Maria Emilia Firpo (Social Anthropologist, Ministry of Interior, Montevideo, Uruguay)
Ricardo Fraiman (Social Anthropologist, Ministry of Interior, Montevideo, Uruguay)
Federico del Castillo (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, New York, USA)
Jordan M. Hyatt (Department of Criminology and Justice Studies, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Cristobal Weinborn (Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Hagit Brants Sabo (Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Publication date: 13 August 2018

Abstract

Purpose

More than a half a dozen published studies have observed the effect of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on complaints against the police. Nearly all, with varying degrees of methodological sophistication, tell a similar story: a strong reduction in complaints filed against the police once BWCs are in use. However, the entirety of the published evidence comes from English speaking countries, limited to the USA and the UK, and is restricted to the effects of BWCs on response policing. The purpose of this paper is to extend this body of research to Latin America, and to specialized policing jobs.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors measured the consequence of equipping traffic police officers with BWCs in five out of the 19 traffic police departments in Uruguay (n=208), and compared these settings to both the pre-test figures as well as to the non-treatment departments. Interrupted time-series analyses and repeated measures of analysis were used for significance testing.

Findings

Statistically significant differences emerged between the before–after as well as the between–groups comparisons: complaints were five times higher in the comparison vs the treatment jurisdictions, and there were 86 percent fewer cases compared to the pre-treatment period.

Research limitations/implications

These outcomes suggest that the effect of BWCs on complaints is ubiquitous.

Practical implications

The findings indicate that BWCs provide an effective solution for reducing grievances against the police, which can potentially be a marker of increased accountability, transparency and legitimacy for the Latin American law enforcement departments.

Originality/value

This study is an extension of findings on BWCs to non-English-speaking police departments, with a focus on specialized policing rather than patrol policing.

Keywords

Citation

Mitchell, R., Ariel, B., Firpo, M., Fraiman, R., Castillo, F., Hyatt, J., Weinborn, C. and Brants Sabo, H. (2018), "Measuring the effect of body-worn cameras on complaints in Latin America", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 510-524. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-01-2018-0004

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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