Research on Body-Worn Cameras and Law Enforcement

National Toolkit

BJA's National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit is a clearinghouse for criminal justice practitioners.

BJA also has produced a podcast series on body-worn cameras.

In a sample of police departments surveyed in 2013, approximately 75 percent of them reported that they did not use body-worn cameras. The survey was funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).[1]

PERF’s report about the survey notes a number of perceived benefits for using body-worn cameras, including better evidence documentation and increased accountability and transparency.[2] But the report also notes many other factors that law enforcement executives must consider, such as privacy issues, officer and community concerns, data retention and public disclosure policies, and financial considerations.[3] The costs of implementing body-worn cameras include not only the cost of the cameras, but also of any ancillary equipment (e.g., tablets that let officers tag data in the field), data storage and management, training, administration, and disclosure.[4]

More research is needed to help law enforcement executives decide whether and how to implement the use of body-worn cameras in their departments.

NIJ has funded multiple studies on the use of body-worn cameras in police departments.

NIJ, as part of CrimeSolutions.gov, also has reviewed the existing evaluation of body-worn cameras and rated a number of programs. Evaluations looked at a range of outcomes, including use of force, citizen complaints, arrests, and assaults on officers. The results have been mixed between programs showing no Effects on the measured outcomes or being rated as promising.

Primer on Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement

Developed by the NIJ-funded NLECTC Sensor, Surveillance and Biometric Technologies Center of Excellence, A Primer on Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement provides an introduction to body-worn camera systems. The  report discusses the functions and features of body-worn camera systems and highlights issues and factors that law enforcement organizations should consider before and during implementation.

Read an abstract and access the full report.

Technical Guidance on Body-Worn Camera Technologies

Agencies should consider how body worn cameras will meet their mission needs and requirements prior to procurement and use of the technology. To provide general guidance to law enforcement practitioners, NIJ, NIST​ and the FBI developed a table listing operating characteristics and associated functionality descriptions (pdf, 3 pages) based on existing technical​ resources about criminal justice use of video.[5],[6] The operating characteristics and associated functionality descriptions in the table can help agencies determine what they ​need ​as they consider the commercial products available.

Market Survey of Body-Worn Cameras for Criminal Justice

The NIJ-funded NLECTC Sensor, Surveillance and Biometric Technologies Center of Excellence conducted a market survey on body-worn cameras for criminal justice. The survey, updated in 2016, aggregates and summarizes information on a number of makes and models of body-worn cameras available today, including the approximate costs of each unit.

Read an abstract and access the full report.


[note 1], [note 2], [note 3], [note 4] Miller, Lindsay, and Jessica Toliver, Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned, Police Executive Research Forum, September 2014.

[note 5] Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology, Body-Worn Video Technical Guidance (pdf, 10 pages), May 2014

[note 6] Scientific Working Group on Imaging Technology​​, Recommendations and Guidelines for Using Closed-Circuit Television Security Systems in Commercial Institutions, Version 3.0 (pdf, 28 pages)​, June 8, 2012.

Date Modified: December 5, 2017