Body worn video

Last updated on 22 July 2017

Body worn video (BWV), also known as body cameras and body-worn cameras, or wearable cameras is an audio, video, or photographic recording system that has a variety of uses:

  • Social
  • Recreational
  • Commercial
  • Healthcare
  • Journalism
  • Medical (memory prosthetic, memory aid, Alzheimer's, Prosopagnosia etc.[1])
  • Covert surveillance
  • Military
  • Law Enforcement

Wearable cameras like the Narrative (social or recreational) or Microsoft SenseCam (medical, etc.) are typically worn on the torso of the body.

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Body worn camera (Taser Axon)
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Body worn camera (Iwitness)
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Body worn camera (Zepcam)

Applications to law enforcement

Wearable cameras are also often utilized by law enforcement to record their interactions with the public or gather video evidence at crime scenes. It has been known to increase both officer and citizen accountability, although arguments have been made that BWVs primarily protect police.[2] Parking inspectors in particular areas also wear these devices to capture an assault or offense. BWVs are notable because of their placement, often on the front of a shirt, provides a first-person perspective and a complete chain of evidence. BWV is a form of closed-circuit television. The definition used in a market survey prepared for the United States Department of Justice in 2016 is that body worn cameras "are cameras with at least one microphone and internal data storage, and allow audio/video footage to be stored and analyzed with compatible software. The cameras are typically located on the police officer's chest or head".[3]


The first generation of 'modern' police body cameras was introduced around 2005 in the United Kingdom. That means these cameras have only been around for a relatively short period of time and thus have not been perfected yet. The current body camera is much lighter and smaller than the first experiments with wearable cameras. There are several types of body cameras made by several different companies. Each camera basically serves the same purpose, yet some function in slightly different ways than others. Some are meant to be mounted on one’s chest or shoulder while others can work as an attachment to glasses or may be worn in a function similar to a headband or on a helmet. As far as sizing goes, "most are roughly the size of a Scotch Tape dispenser and weigh anywhere from about 2 ounces (55 grams) to 5 ounces (140 grams). That's somewhere between a large strawberry and a lemon."[4] These lightweight cameras are designed to be worn comfortably.


In a 2012 market survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, eight companies producing body cameras were compared: Taser International, VieVu, StalkerVUE, Scorpion, FirstVU, Wolfcom, MuviView and Panasonic.[5] In 2014, the three top companies that had been producing body cameras throughout the United States were Taser International, VieVu, and Digital Ally.[6] In 2016, a market survey described 66 body worn video cameras produced by 38 different vendors.[3]

  • Aventura
  • Black Mamba
  • BrickHouse Security
  • Brimtek EdgeVis
  • Coban
  • Data911
  • DEI Getac Veretos
  • Digital Ally FirstVU
  • Edesix
  • FlyWire
  • Global Justice Eagle
  • GoPro
  • HauteSpot Networks
  • HD Protech CITE
  • Kustom Signals
  • L-3
  • Law Systems Witness
  • Marantz
  • Martel
  • Motorola
  • Panasonic
  • Patrol Eyes
  • Paul Conway
  • Pinnacle
  • PRG
  • Primal USA
  • Pro-Vision
  • Reveal Media
  • Safety Innovations
  • Taser International
  • Titan
  • Utility
  • VieVu
  • VP360
  • WatchGuard
  • Wolfcom
  • Zepcam
  • Zetronix


The various needs and budgets of police departments have led to a wide range of body camera equipment to be offered in recent years. Body camera manufacturers have constantly looked for technical innovations to improve their products to ensure the most professional and useful results. Each company has their own specific reasons for providing certain features in their body cameras. Axon cameras, similar to other body cameras on the market, were created for the purpose of ensuring public safety through obtaining the truth behind actions carried out by law enforcement agencies.[7] Taser chose not to include the use of HD video quality in their first model because the video files were five to ten times larger than a regular resolution of 640 x 240. Vievu found that HD video quality serves as a great help when evidence is presented in courtrooms due to the viewer’s ability to get a clearer picture of what occurred.[6] The Axon Body 2 that was introduced later does support HD recording.[7] Factors like these are addressed by each company throughout the process of designing and producing their body cameras. Many body cameras offer specific features that include options of HD footage, infrared, night vision, fisheye lenses, and varying degrees of view.[6] Ever since body cameras have been worn by police officers, there has been a debate over whether video qualities that make the camera superior to that of the officer’s eyes should be allowed. One of these main features is night vision and has led companies to question whether to incorporate such features into their products.[8]

Another important innovation is buffering: several body cameras can be set to "pre-record". The cam continually records and stores the most recent 30 seconds. Unless the officer pushes the record button, the recording will be deleted on a 'first in, first out' basis. This makes it possible to record what happened before an actual confrontation if the officer does not press the record button before an escalation. The buffered video and audio may provide more context. New features are constantly being implemented into the cameras and the data-storage process. Because the amount of data stored can quickly become overwhelming, important innovations have to do with Video Content Analysis, facial recognition, and automatic triggers to start recording, for instance, if a weapon is pulled from a holster or when an officer starts running or falls down.

Costs and benefits


Body cameras require sizeable investments. The prices of the cameras themselves are between $120 and 1,000, according to a market survey in 2012 by the United States Department of Justice in which seven suppliers were compared.[5] A market survey in 2016, describing 66 body cameras of 38 different vendors, showed that the average price (or actually the average manufacturer’s suggested retail prices) was $570, with a minimum of $199 and a maximum of $2,000.[3]

But the camera is just the start of the expenses. Police departments also have to run software and store data for all the cameras which can add up quickly.[4] Other costs include maintenance, training and evaluations. In addition, several indirect costs will be incurred by bodycams, for instance, the hours police and others in the criminal justice system spend on managing, reviewing and using the recordings for prosecution. These 'hidden' costs are notoriously hard to quantify, but there is some evidence that shows that the amount of money spent on the body cameras themselves is only a minor portion of the total cost of ownership:

  • The New South Wales Police Force in Australia produced 930 terabytes of recorded video each year with 350 bodycams. The costs involved in storing and managing the data was estimated at 6.5 million Australian dollars each year. The body cams were bought for less than 10% of that amount.[9]
  • The Los Angeles Police Department (United States) acquired 7,000 cameras in 2016 for an amount of $57.6 million. At an estimated price of $570 per camera, the costs of the cameras would be around $4 million, which is 7% of the total amount. The other costs involve replacement equipment and digital storage of the recordings.[10]
  • Police in Denver, Colorado (United States) bought 800 body cams and storage servers for the amount of $6.1 million. The price of the body cams was estimated to be 8% of that amount, the other 92% was spent on storage of recordings and management and maintenance of the body cams. The costs involved in reviewing, editing and submitting recorded video or the training of personnel were not included.[11]
  • The Sacramento Police Department (California, United States) purchased 890 cameras for all patrol staff under a five-year, $4 million agreement. Storage on an ongoing basis was expected to cost about $1 million per year. The city would also hire three full-time police employees to handle technology issues, including editing of video.[12]
  • The Houston Police Department (Texas, United States) estimated that the total cost of about 4,100 cameras was $3.4 million for the equipment and an expected $8 million over five years to buy servers and other equipment to store video collected by the cameras, plus staffing costs.[13]
  • Toronto Police Services concluded that the major challenge associated with any adoption of body-worn cameras is the cost. Staffing, technology and storage requirements would be about $20 million in the first year of implementation, with a total 5-year estimated cost of roughly $51 million, not including costs for integration of records management and video asset management systems. The most expensive component would be storage of recordings reaching nearly 5 petabytes in five years[14]

These examples prove that the total cost of ownership depends less on the body cams than on the other costs involved.


Body cameras can also have benefits, both direct and indirect. They can, for instance, save police time in the reconstruction of incidents or gathering of evidence. In addition, just as there are indirect costs, there can be indirect benefits. For instance, if violence against police officers decreases because of body cameras, not only does this reduce medical costs and the number of days off needed to recover; it can also have sizeable psychological and emotional benefits. If the number of complaints goes down, this means that less time has to be spent on reviewing and investigating what actually happened. If the number of suspects that offer an early guilty plea goes up, this can save considerable amounts of time that would otherwise have been necessary to gather evidence. Another benefit also includes “recognizing patterns of officer behavior”,[15] which means that there can be more analysis into how officers interact with citizens, and how they handle situations. If certain tactics or approaches aren’t working, they can be changed after analyzing the recordings to find a better solution. Other benefits may include increased job satisfaction of police officers, a decrease in fear of crime of citizens or a boost in the legitimacy of the police. Most of these indirect benefits are difficult to express in monetary terms, but that does not make them less real or valuable.

Based on the application of body worn video by the New Orleans Police Department, body worn video has shown to decrease the number of “dropsies” cases, increase the accountability of the police officers and their practices, and has given defendant’s an extra tool to defend themselves with. “Dropsies” are cases in which “police claim to have seen a defendant drop or discard illegal drugs, which justifies the arrest”. The Orleans Public Defenders' chief of trials, Danny Engelberg, argues that these cases are less one-sided because there is now video to complement, or counter, the officer’s written report. Engelberg says the "videos are being recorded regularly, and the cameras have had a positive effect of police conduct".[16]

All costs and benefits, including indirect costs and benefits, have to be weighed against each other in a cost-benefit analysis, to be able to judge whether body cameras lead to a positive or negative business case. The police in Kent, United Kingdom, predicted a positive business case within two years after their investment of £1.8 million in body cameras, purely because of a reduction in the number of complaints.[17]


United Kingdom

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Body cam (VideoBadge) in use by a West Midlands Police officer
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West Midlands Police trial of body-camera (Reveal)
Body worn cameras (VideoBadge) are being trialed by officers in Wolverhampton and Birmingham

Body-worn video cameras received wide media coverage because of the first testing of body-worn cameras in the United Kingdom in 2005. The test was begun on a small-scale by Devon and Cornwall Police.[18] In 2006, the first significant deployments of body worn video at the national level were undertaken by the Police Standards Unit (PSU) as part of the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaign (DVEC). The basic command units equipped with the head cameras recorded everything that happened during an incident from the time of arrival which led to the "preservation of good-quality first disclosure evidence from the victim". The evidence gathered was deemed especially useful in the way of supporting prosecutions if the victim was reluctant to give evidence or press charges.

This led the Home Office to publish a report stating that "evidence gathering utilising this equipment has the potential radically to enhance the police performance at the scene of a wide range of incidents".[19] In the same report, the Home Office concluded that the body worn camera system used in Devon and Cornwall had "the ability to significantly improve the quality of the evidence provided by police officers at incidents". However, mostly due to the limitations of the then available technology, it was also recommended that police forces should await the completion of successful trials and projects to re-evaluate the technology before investing in cameras. By July 2007, the Home Office was beginning to encourage the emerging industry and published another document entitled "Guidance for the Police use of Body Worn Cameras". The report was based on the first national pilot of BWV conducted in Plymouth. Tony McNulty MP, Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism and Police wrote a foreword that held BWV in a promising light: "The use of body-worn video has the potential to improve significantly the quality of evidence provided by police officers…video recording from the scene of an incident will capture compelling evidence…that could never be captured in written statements." Despite being hailed as a tool to enhance the quality of evidence, the focus was beginning to shift away from exclusively benefitting prosecutions. The Home Office highlighted that BWV also had the significant potential to "prevent and deter crime". In addition, the final report on the National Pilot for BWV announced that complaints against the officers wearing the cameras had been reduced to zero and time spent on paperwork had been reduced by 22.4%, which led to a 9.2% increase in officer time spent on patrol ("50 minutes of a 9-hour shift").

Following the national pilot, BWV began to gain some traction in the UK and, by 2008, Hampshire Police began to use the technology in parts of the Isle of Wight and the mainland. These were the first steps that paved the way for Chief Constable Andy Marsh becoming the national lead for BWV. Pioneers of BWV in the UK began to drive the need to review the legislation surrounding the use of the equipment. In 2009 the Security Industry Authority concluded that a CCTV license could be extended to cover the use of a body camera. The summary stated that a CCTV license was required to review footage from a body camera and that a door supervision or security guard license was required to operate a body camera if security activities were also being performed.

In 2010, 5  years after the first BWV venture, over 40 UK police areas were using body cameras to varying degrees. Grampian Police were one such force that initiated a trial in July 2010 which paved the way for the Paisley and Aberdeen body wore video project in 2011. The project was considered a huge success and it was identified that the benefits saved an estimated minimum of £400,000 per year due to the following:

  • Increase public reassurance;
  • Reduce fear of crime in local communities;
  • Increase early guilty pleas;
  • Resolve complaints about the police or wardens more quickly;
  • Reduce assaults on officers.

The concluding sections of the report on the Paisley and Aberdeen project turned the attention to the digital, back-end solutions for BWV. Now that the benefits of using body cameras were being realized, the implications on the digital infrastructure were being called into question. The report suggested providing "robust central IT support" to have established the processes behind information gathering and monitoring.

In 2013 the Home Office released an updated code of practice for surveillance cameras, in which Principle 8 included the use of body cameras, stating: "Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards". 2013 also saw the start of Operation Hyperion, a Hampshire Police initiative on the Isle of Wight that equipped every frontline police officer with a personal issue body worn camera, the biggest project of its kind at the time. Sergeant Steve Goodier oversaw the project and was adamant that the project would drive legislative changes to free up further uses for body worn cameras. He said "I strongly believe we could make some small changes to legislation that can have a big impact on officers: "PACE was written in 1984 at a time when BWV was not around…We want to get the legislation changed so that BWV could replace the need for handwritten statements from officers when it is likely that an early guilty plea would be entered at court or that the incident could be dealt with a caution or community resolution."

In 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service began a 12 month trial in ten London boroughs, testing the impact of Body Worn Video on complaints, stop and search and criminal justice outcomes for violent offenses. Following the trial, the decision was made to issue body cameras to all officers who have regular engagement with the public. Other officers will be able to access cameras on an ‘as needed’ basis. A total of 22,000 cameras will be issued.[20]

In 2016, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) formally introduced body Worn Video technology commencing with Derry City and Strabane District, with Belfast becoming the second District to introduce the technology.[21] A pilot Body Worn Video camera scheme was run during 2014/15, which illustrated the benefits of Body Worn Video. On that basis a business case was submitted to the Department of Justice and funding was secured to purchase Body Worn Video technology for officers across the service. In 2017, the Northern Ireland Prison Service implemented body worn video, following the success of the PSNI deployment.[22]

United States

Body camera (L3) worn by policeman of North Charleston (South Carolina, USA)

In the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner, police use of body camera technology has become a topic of national debate.

On December 1, 2014, President Barack Obama "proposed reimbursing communities half the cost of buying cameras and storing video—a plan that would require Congress to authorize $75 million over three years to help purchase 50,000 recording devices".[23] He also asked Congress for a $263 million package overall to deal with community policing initiatives that would provide a 50 percent federal match for local police departments to purchase body cameras and to store them.[24] With the push from former President Barack Obama to “expand funding and training to law enforcement agencies through community policing initiatives”, the United States Department of Justice announced in May 2015 that they would grant 73 out of the 285 awards requested for a total of 20 million dollars.[25] This allowed for the purchase and distribution of 21,000 cameras to be placed in active duty. A National Institute of Justice report found this in regards to responding police agencies: "In a sample of police departments surveyed in 2013, approximately 75 percent of them reported that they did not use body-worn cameras".[26] A November 2014 survey of police departments serving the 100 most populous cities, Vocativ found that "41 cities use body cams on some of their officers, 25 have plans to implement body cams and 30 cities do not use or plan to use cams at this time".[27] The following cities have body camera technology in place: Oakland and San Diego, California; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Mesa, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Hickory, North Carolina, and Miami, Florida.[27]

Following The Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, the state of Illinois became one of the first states to have a comprehensive set of rules for police departments in regards to body camera usage.[28] The Chicago Police Department as well as the mayor of the city, Rahm Emanuel, have been vocal about their plan to enact a body-worn camera expansion that would equip police officers by the end of 2017. The goal of this plan, as well as the hiring of more officers, is to improve public trust in the law, expand transparency, and halt the climbing number of homicides.[29][30] Springfield Police Department (Illinois) has also been among the local departments that have expanded the use of body worn cameras despite the Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow stating that "there are still problems with the state body camera law, and many departments in Illinois aren’t adopting the cameras as a result".[31] One of those departments is the Minooka Police Department that discontinued the use of body cameras because they felt overburdened by administrative responsibilities.[32][33][34]

There have been studies on the use of body-worn cameras and the effect that these cameras have on police behavior. In Rialto, California, for example, police officers were to wear small body cameras at all times and record all working hours. According to the data, "The cameras cost about $900 dollars [sic] each. They can hold up to 12 hours of full-color footage and upload their footage via a cloud system. After one year researchers found that after requiring the Rialto police to wear the cameras complaints against officers from citizens dropped by 88% and "use of force" dropped by 59%".[35] The findings of this research have led to debates concerning costs, rights, and the accuracy of the study.[35][36] In New York City, for example, body-worn cameras could cost up to $31 million. However, cities such as Washington, D.C. report that body-worn cameras would save money by reducing lawsuits targeted towards the police force and by aiding in the dismissal of court cases with digital evidence provided by the recorded footage of the body-worn cameras.[35] The University of South Florida released a report that studied the effects of body-worn cameras for the Orlando Police Department that lasted an entire year.[37] The research found that for officers wearing the body cameras, use-of-force incidents dropped by 53%, civilian complaints dropped by 65%, two in three officers who wore the cameras said they’d want to continue wearing them in the future and that it made them "better officers".[37]

Investigations have shown that although in many states the usage of body worn cameras is mandatory, there are several instances where some officers have failed to adhere to the law.  From 2015 until now, there have been nationally recognized scenarios of fatal shootings in San Francisco, Alabama, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles in which the officer was wearing a body camera, but did not have it turned on.[38] The Los Angeles Police Department is one of the first to publicly discuss solutions as to how they will try to fix this problem.  Small reminders such as stickers in the station and cars are meant to remind officers to utilize this technology. In addition, Los Angeles Police Department is testing new technology that would activate the cameras at the same time as the officer turns on their emergency lights. The LAPD has also been working with the body camera manufacturer it uses, Taser International, to increase a buffer that saves video from 30 seconds before and after the camera is turned on and off.[38]

Police unions in several U.S. cities, such as New York City (the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents the NYPD),[39] Las Vegas,[40] and Jersey City, New Jersey,[41] and St. Louis, Missouri,[42] expressed doubts or opposition to body cameras. Specifically, union officials expressed concerns about possible distraction and safety issues, and questioned "whether all the footage filmed by body cameras will be accessible via public-records requests, whether victims of domestic violence will be hesitant to call police if they know they will be filmed and whether paying for the cameras and maintenance will lead to cuts elsewhere in the police budget".[41] Others have worried about a "gotcha discipline".[42] Some unions have argued that it was "mandatory" for police departments to include provisions about body-worn cameras in union contracts because it would be a "clear change in working conditions" as well as something that could "impact an officer's safety".[40]

The American Civil Liberties Union is an organization that has been a major proponent of body cameras on officers.[43] The ACLU has advocated body camera use for both police departments and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,[44] granted that safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of both officers and civilians.[45] However, they have opposed the use of such systems for parking enforcement officers, fire marshals, building inspectors, or other code enforcement officers.[46] Some police departments in the United States, such as the Albuquerque Police Department and Rialto Police Department, have experimented with or deployed body-worn camera systems.

In 2012, the National Institute of Justice at the United States Department of Justice issued a primer regarding laws, policies, practices, and technology for local police departments to consider.[47]

The debate on body-worn videos for police rages on. Some believe similarly to Fox News resident psychiatrist Keith Ablow, who stated that it was an "insult to police officers" to provide them body cameras and additional de-escalation training.[48] Others, such as Black Lives Matter, have released specific policy solutions to tackle the issue of police violence and escalation that include body cameras for police, limited use of force, and demilitarization of the police are a few of the ten crucial policies listed in Campaign Zero.[49][50] The debates on body worn cameras for police officers indirectly touches on the effects of the War on Drugs and violence where former President Bill Clinton links the war on drugs to fueling more cycles of violence,[51] Senator Rand Paul "compared the war on drugs to the racist policies of the Jim Crow era",[52] and the American Civil Liberties Union released a report that states that "while marijuana use rates between blacks and whites are comparable, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession".[53]


Some police services in Canada such as the Calgary Police Service have trialed body-worn video systems since 2012, and have recently adopted body-cameras for deployment by all officers beginning in 2017.[54] Police unions in Canada have been opposed to body-worn video systems, citing privacy and cost concerns.[55] In 2015, several city police units including those in Winnipeg and Montreal announced plans to experiment with the technology.[54] The Toronto Police Service started a pilot in 2014 with the technology during a year-long study of body-worn cameras. In total, 100 officers were using the technology from May 2015 thru May 2016.[56] The evaluation report concluded that support for the body cameras was strong and increased during the pilot. There were technical issues, for instance with battery life, camera mounting, docking, recharging, ability to classify, ease of review and other issues. Administrative responsibilities associated with the body cameras resulted in significant commitment of time by officers that then was not available to spend on other duties.[14] In September 2016, the Toronto police wanted to put out a call for proposals from suppliers.[57]


The number of body-worn cameras in use by the police of Australia is growing increasingly prevalent in parallel with other countries. The first bodycams or 'cop-cams' were trialed in Western Australia in 2007. Victoria has been trialing body-worn cameras since 2012, and in 2015 the NSW police announced they had invested $4 million in rolling out body-worn cameras to frontline police officers. According to research being conducted in 2016 'the use of body-worn cameras has now gathered traction in most Australian states and territories'.[58]


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Body-Cam (Zepcam) used by federal police in Germany

In some parts of Germany, police services have used body-worn video systems since 2013.[59] Police in a growing number of regional states (the Länder) use bodycams.[60] The rationale for the introduction of these cameras has overwhelmingly been to better protect police against violence from citizens. Another reason has been the fact that citizens are filming the police. As Rüdiger Seidenspinner, the president of the union of police officers for the State Baden-Württemberg, explained: "The reason is simple: our colleagues have had enough in this era of smartphones of being filmed only when they intervene. What caused the intervention, what actions, insults etc. took place does not seem to concern anyone. Furthermore, we will not use the BodyCam in all situations, but only for specific deployments and especially in areas with high levels of crime".[61] According to a representative sample of 1,200 citizens from Germany in 2015, a majority of 71% is in favour of body cameras and 20% is opposed to the technology.[62]

Detailed information is available on the use of body cameras in five Länder. In Hessen, the police were the first force in Germany to use body cams in May 2013. According to official registrations, the resistance (Widerstand) to police decreased from 40 to 25 and only one of the officers wearing a body camera was wounded, compared to nine colleagues without camera.[63] Following the pilot, the number of bodycams acquired went up from the original 13 to 72 in total, also meant for other areas in Hessen.[64][65] The success of the pilot inspired many other German cities and the national police to start using body cameras as well. Police from Hungary, Switzerland, and Austria were interested as well and asked the German police for information.[64]

In Rheinland-Pfalz body, cams are in use since July 2015 in the cities of Mainz and Koblenz to reduce violence towards the police and to collect footage that can be used as evidence. The costs of these body cams was 18.500 euro.[66] Based on the positive experiences, eighty more bodycams have been acquired to be deployed in more areas in these two cities. In Hamburg, one of five members in each team that surveils during weekends is equipped with a bodycam since June 2015. These cameras can be pointed in different directions by manually operated remote control.[67] Since 2016, the Bavarian State Police have been testing bodycams in Munich, Augsburg and Rosenheim. The cameras have to be activated in critical situations and at dangerous locations, for instance in nightlife entertainment areas where fighting is a common occurrence.[68] In Baden-Württemberg, bodycams are deployed in Stuttgart, Mannheim and Freiburg since 2016.[69] The aim here is to test the bodycams during one year with the aim of reducing violence against the police.[70]

Starting in February 2016, the German federal police is also testing bodycams at trainstations in Berlin, Köln, Düsseldorf and Munich.[71][72]


In France, national and municipal police will be outfitted with 2 600 body cameras in 2017, after experimentation during the previous years.[73] The measure is intended to appease interventions and reassure the security forces. Formally, the goals of the cameras are:

  1. prevention of incidents during interventions by the police or the military (gendarmerie nationale);
  2. detection of violations of the law and the prosecution of the suspects by collecting evidence;
  3. training and education of officers

The legal framework has been determined early in 2017 by the national committee on information and freedoms (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés - CNIL). Their opinion is that because of the elevated risks created by surveillance of persons and personal life that could result from the use of these cameras, a specific legal framework was necessary. Separate laws were developed for national police and gendarmerie[74] and for municipal police.[75]

Other organisations that will start using these small wearable cameras include the rail transportation (SNCF) and the regional public transport for Paris (RATP). Separate legislation has been developed for this type of law enforcement.[76]


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Body cam (GoPro) used by police Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Bodycam (VideoBadge) used by local law enforcement in Amsterdam

The first body worn video used by the Dutch police were portable cameras used by the mounted riot-police in 1997.[9] The first small-scale experiments with modern-day bodycams date back to 2008. Large-scale coordinated experiments were conducted from 2009 through 2011 and took place in four of the 25 regional police-forces. The pilot was aimed at reducing violence against the police. The results were disappointing, largely due to technical problems with recordings and 'wearability' of the equipment.[77] Following this evaluation, the Department of Justice concluded that bodycams were not ready to be 'rolled out' on a larger scale.

Since then, however, regional and local experiments with bodycams have been undertaken. According to a survey conducted by the Dutch public broadcasting corporation (NOS) in 2011, 10 of the 25 regional police forces were using body worn video.[78] One year later, that number had gone up to 17 of the 25 forces, according to one of the major suppliers of body worn video cameras in the Netherlands.[79] In November 2015, the Dutch National Police published a programme regarding the integration of 'sensing' capabilities into police activities. The programme mainly focuses on CCTV, automatic number plate recognition and bodycams.[80] In 2017 and 2018, the Dutch National Police will conduct large-scale experiments with bodycams to find out whether this technology will become part of the standard equipment of all police officers. The experiments will be evaluated extensively.[9]

Other organizations that use bodycams include local law enforcement agencies, such as the Amsterdam city wardens surveilling taxis. Body worn cameras are used city wardens in several cities, among which Alkmaar, Assen, Eindhoven and Rotterdam. Others that use body cameras are the stewards that supervise supporters during football matches or public events, such as festivals or protest-demonstrations. In other sectors such as public transportation, ambulances and fire-fighters, bodycams have been trialled, but have not been implemented on a large scale. Larger roll-outs are predicted from 2017 onwards.[81]


In Finland, a pilot with body cameras was started in 2015. Thirty cameras were used by the Helsinki Police Department to help the police in maintaining public order. It was hoped that body cameras might prevent crime and disorder. Furthermore, it was expected that the cameras could at the same time improve the way the police worked. The cameras were meant to be used in specific settings and only in public places. Filming inside homes would only be allowed as part of a criminal investigation. The data were to be encrypted and could only be accessed with specific software, according to the police. It was expected that most recordings would be deleted right after each shift, because of the need for privacy protection.[82]

United Arab Emirates

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An example of Google Glass

Police in Dubai use Google Glass to record incidents, including traffic offenses.[83] Following a successful six month pilot scheme, the Dubai Police Force decided to adopt body worn video technology in 2015. Speaking to the media at the time, Gen Al Muzeina flagged-up the value of footage from these cameras. He said that this evidence could, potentially, be used where there are objections to traffic offences or a failure by officers to meet acceptable standards[84]. The Abu Dhabi Police also confirmed in the same year that – following two years of trials – it would be rolling out body worn video cameras to patrol officers.[85]


Monitoring police behavior

Police body cameras have been proven to be an effective way to monitor police behavior. A study concluded that when 46 randomly selected officers were chosen to wear video recording devices against 43 officers who were not, there was a 53% decrease in use-of-force incidents reported and civilian complaints dropped by nearly 65%.[86]

Another indirect benefit police body worn cameras provide is the increased trust between the public and law enforcement. An example of heightened relationships occurred after the death of Sam DuBose of Cincinnati in 2015. Officer Ray Tensing claimed he had to fatally shoot Sam DuBose because “he was being dragged by the vehicle and had to fire his weapon.”[87] However, after reviewing the body camera footage on Tensing’s person, it was discovered Tensing was lying and he was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter.[87] After the discovery, DuBose’s sister said, “Every day now, I’m going to be marching for video cams.”

In another example, in 2014, a study was led by professors at Arizona State University and commanding officers in Phoenix. Among the other positive impacts that have been discovered, complaints against officers who wore body worn cameras dropped 23% compared to a 10% increase in officers who did not wear the camera.[88]

Video as evidence or for reconstruction of events

Video recording devices can also provide documented footage into the behavior of law enforcement officers, video can be used in the court of law and the cameras can encourage honesty and dispel any false accusations made by any parties. Although deemed as expensive, ranging between $400 and $1,200, body cameras can promote positive, civilized and appropriate behaviors.[89]

Assaults against officers

A study by researchers at Cambridge based on camera use on 2,122 officers across the United States and Britain (in total about 2.2 million work hours) was conducted in 2016. It concluded that assaults against police officers increased by about 15% while wearing cameras, but the data was insufficient to conclude exactly why.[90][91]

Rialto and Mesa studies' results

A University of Cambridge study found that there was a 59% reduction in use of force by officers in Rialto, California, after the police department began issuing body-worn cameras to officers, and that complaints fell by 87% compared to the previous year.[92][93] Another study found that police officers assigned to wear body-worn cameras in Mesa, Arizona, were less likely to stop-and-frisk or arrest people, but "were more likely to give citations and initiate encounters". The authors concluded that the officers are more proactive with the use of these cameras, but that they are not more likely to use invasive strategies "that may threaten the legitimacy of the organization".[94]

Willingness to report crimes

Body worn video can potentially have a legitimizing effect on public view of police officers, due to the perception that officers are more accountable for their actions if body cameras are recording these actions. According to research conducted by Cambridge University, more crimes were reported when officers wore body cameras than in control groups in which no cameras were worn.[95]

Privacy concerns

With 88% of Americans supporting body cameras on police officers,[96] there is strong support for this technology. Implementation goals are to reduce the use of unnecessary force and increase accountability. However, with these cameras arise the issue of privacy. There are conditions concerning privacy for the public and police officers that are still being addressed. One is the fear that every police officer wearing this technology could become a "roving surveillance camera"[97] and with facial recognition technology, this could become a huge impact on people's everyday lives, especially those with any slight resemblance to a wanted fugitive or terrorist. This can lead to not only an increase in police harassment cases but racial bias cases as well. There are also issues concerning party consent laws.[4] In the context of recording, the biggest issues arise from whether consent from one or all parties is required before recording a conversation or interaction.[98] Federal and individual states have varying statutes regarding consent laws. The nature of police work has officers interacting with citizens during their most vulnerable moments,[99] such as citizens in the hospital, or domestic violence cases, there is also a threat of citizens not coming forward with tips for fear of being recorded. And in terms of the police officer's private contexts, they may forget to turn off cameras in the bathroom or in private conversations. These situations should be considered as the technology is developed further and the use of it is becoming more saturated. Departments will need to work with advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union to develop policies that balance citizen's Fourth Amendment rights with the public's desire for transparency.[99]

Real-time technology

During incidents, command centers are able to pinpoint officers' locations in real time based on body cameras' ability to stream live video to a Veretos Cloud, making them much more strategic in placement of officers due to being more situationally aware of the area and what the officers are actually seeing in real time.[100]

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