North Carolina Law Review

University of North Carolina School of Law

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The Intersection of Law, Policy, and Police Body-Worn Cameras: An Exploration of Critical Issues

June 1, 2018

96 N.C. L. Rev. 1579 (2018) 

Michael D. White & Henry F. Fradella


Police body-worn cameras (“BWCs”) have diffused rapidly among U.S. law enforcement, in part because of early studies which suggested that the technology could produce important outcomes for police and their communities. The potential for BWCs to produce positive outcomes is affected by a wide range of issues tied to program planning and implementation, as all of the benefits of BWCs can be short-circuited by poor pre-deployment decisions. This Article seeks to inform the continued diffusion of this technology through a deep examination of BWCr esearch and resources. The authors first review the body of research on BWCs and describe best practices for planning and implementing a BWC program. The authors also highlight the importance of administrative policy through a critical review of four controversial BWC policy issues: activation, citizen notification, officer review of footage, and supervisory review of footage. The policy discussion is grounded in reviews of the relevant research and the results of an analysis of 129 BWC policies. Last, the authors suggest the larger discretion control framework in policing offers an important lens for guiding officer BWC decision-making.



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