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Photo by Matt Rourke/​The Associated Press

Washington — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced a landmark $1.6 million investment in foundational research on police body-worn cameras (BWCs) to determine what impact this emerging technology has on public safety, policing strategies, and community perceptions of law enforcement.

Recent controversies surrounding police use of force have generated tremendous interest in BWCs for officers across the nation. Yet, the technology is relatively new, and there is little research currently available to indicate what impact BWCs will have, or when and how they can be most effective.

A growing number of agencies are using body-worn cameras in an effort to reduce violence, enhance police training, strengthen community relations, and aid in the prosecution of crimes,” LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Anne Milgram explained. This research will help to answer critical questions and identify best practices for the use of the technology.”

Announced today during a briefing at the United States Capitol, LJAF will fund four major studies:

  • A one-year randomized controlled trial (RCT) study with the Spokane, Washington, and Tempe, Arizona, police departments led by Michael White at Arizona State University that will examine police and community perceptions of BWCs, use of BWCs as training tools, BWCs’ likelihood to reduce violence, changes in prosecutorial practices, and BWCs’ effect on case outcomes;
  • An 18-month RCT study with the Arlington, Texas, police department led by Tom Wilson and Sean Goodison at the Police Executive Research Forum to gauge community reactions to interactions with police using BWCs;
  • A one-year RCT study with the Anaheim, California, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police departments led by Nancy La Vigne and Daniel Lawrence at the Urban Institute to determine the optimal operational uses of BWCs during interactions with people in the community; and
  • A 21-month nationwide study led by Tom Wilson at the Police Executive Research Forum to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of BWCs in relation to other alternatives for settling disputes between police and defendants.

The researchers will publish reports and articles about their findings and will deliver presentations at various conferences. LJAF is funding the studies as part of its broader strategy to investigate promising practices that have the potential to transform the criminal justice system.