HomePublications › Do Body Cameras Affect the Quality of Victim-Police Interactions in Field Interviews?


Do Body Cameras Affect the Quality of Victim-Police Interactions in Field Interviews?

Publication Date

June 2019


Robert C. Davis and Kalani Johnson


In the past few years, police departments nationwide have deployed body-worn cameras, and brought to light issues regarding the technology’s adoption. Among the most important of these is how the use of body cameras affects how victims and witnesses interact with police officers who are wearing cameras. Using an experimental design, this study examined the quality of information provided to the police by victims and witnesses under three conditions: (1) officer does not have a body camera, (b) officer with a body camera requests permission to record interview, and (c) officer with a body camera notifies victim or witness that they are being recorded, and switches camera off only if explicitly requested to do so by the citizen. The study did not find differences between any of these conditions in victim ratings of their interaction with a police officer. Most victims did not notice body cameras and when they did notice, they do not object to being recorded. The findings support a body camera policy which does not require that victims give consent to having body cameras on. Rather, officers should be given a degree of discretion to discontinue recording in sensitive situations, or situations in which victims strongly object, as long as they record the reason for deactivating the recording. The results suggest that officers will have to use such discretion only infrequently.

Research Design

Randomized controlled trial (RCT)

Research Methods

Surveys, Field-based experiment

Recommended Citation

Davis, R., & Johnson, K. (2019). Do body cameras affect the quality of victim-police interactions in field interviews? National Policing Institute. https://www.policinginstitute.org/publication/do-body-cameras-affect-the-quality-of-victim-police-interactions-in-field-interviews/