Body worn video (BWV), also known as body cameras and body-worn cameras, or wearable cameras is a wearable audio, video, or photographic recording system.
Body worn video has a range of uses and designs, of which two well-known uses are Google Glasses and as a part of policing equipment. Other uses include action cameras for social and recreational (including cycling), within commerce, in healthcare and medical use (for example as a memory prosthetic for conditions that affect the memory), in military use, journalism, citizen sousveillance and covert surveillance.
Nascent research on the impact of body-worn cameras in law enforcement shows mixed evidence as to the impact of cameras on the use of force by law enforcement and communities' trust in police.
Body worn cameras are often designed to be worn in one of three locations: on the torso, on or built into a helmet, and on or built into glasses. Some feature live streaming capabilities while others are based on local storage.
Wearable cameras are often utilized by law enforcement in several countries to record their interactions with the public or gather video evidence at crime scenes. It has been suggested to increase both officer and citizen accountability, although arguments have been made that BWVs primarily protect police. Because traumatic events may have an effect on memory, the cameras also allow video playback in the case of memory loss. The first generation of 'modern' police body cameras was introduced around 2005 in the United Kingdom. Over twenty-three million dollars has been given to police departments all across the United States to put toward the implementation of body cameras. This is to further reduce police brutality and public inquiry.
Early research based on pilot projects has sometimes shown significant positive results. But the first meta-evaluation that was published in 2014 warned that more research is needed. This meta-evaluation was based on five evaluations from body camera projects in the United Kingdom (Plymouth 2007 and Renfrewshire/Aberdeen 2011) and the United States (Rialto, Mesa and Phoenix – all published in 2013). Most of these studies documented a reduction in citizen complaints against the police and, in some cases, similar reductions in use of force and assaults on officers. Most of these evaluations had 'significant methodological limitations', for instance no comparison group or no independent evaluation. Later studies showed conflicting results. In a large-scale study in London from 2015, involving 2,000 police officers, complaints related to interactions with the public reduced, but not statistically significant. There was no impact on the number of stop and searches conducted, no difference in officers' self-reported behaviour relating to how they conducted stops, no effect on the proportion of arrests for violent crime and no evidence that the cameras changed the way police officers dealt with victims or suspects. A 2017 study from Washington, D.C. including a large number of law enforcement officers showed no effect of body cameras on documented uses of force and civilian complaints, or on a variety of additional policing activities and judicial outcomes. The authors suggest 'we should recalibrate our expectations' of body worn cameras: "they may have great utility in specific policing scenarios, but we cannot conclude from this experiment that they can be expected to produce large, department-wide improvements in outcomes".
In reviewing the existing research on police body-worn cameras in 2017, University of Virginia economist Jennifer Doleac noted that the existing research was mixed as to whether the cameras reduce the use of force by police officers and increase the communities' trust in police.
Although this equipment has benefits in certain situations, the advent of large-scale data collection concerns, combined with facial recognition and other technologies capable of interpreting videos in bulk, means that any use of such cameras potentially creates a means of tracking much of the population at any time or place where other people may go.
In policing, every police officer wearing this technology could become a "roving surveillance camera" 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. 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. 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, 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.