In 2012 a police body camera experiment took place in Rialto, California. Police officers were randomly assigned body cameras based on their shifts over a 12 month period.
As it turned out, the shifts assigned cameras had half as many use-of-force incidents as shifts without body cameras, and the number of complaints filed by civilians against police officers declined by 90 percent when compared to the previous year.
The results suggested police body cameras modified police behavior, or, as one reporter stated, the technology had a “civilizing effect.”
In 2013 the “civilizing effect” of the Rialto results encouraged a federal judge to order the New York City Police Department to conduct a pilot program using body cameras. There were 927 New York police officers assigned body cameras and their performance was compared to police officers without them. These results are due in the spring of 2018.
In 2016 a Huffington Post headline said: “Body cameras benefit police, too, study shows.” The headline implied that this study, published in the journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior, discovered an additional benefit to police departments that wasn’t detected by previous studies.
This study consisted of seven police departments. Researchers tracked the number of complaints filed against roughly 2,000 police officers in the year before they were issued body cameras, then compared them to the number of complaints filed the year after the body cameras were worn. As it turned out, complaints dropped for all seven departments. The year before the body cameras were issued there were 1,539 complaints, and the year after the cameras were used the complaints dropped to 113.