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Program Profile: Police Body-Worn Cameras (Birmingham South, UK)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Randomized Controlled Trial

Date: This profile was posted on August 07, 2018

Program Summary

Police body-worn cameras are used to record police encounters with citizens during officers’ shifts in Birmingham South. Officers were instructed to begin recording as soon as they left their vehicles and to conclude recording once the situation was resolved. The program is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant reduction in citizen injury, but no statistically significant reduction in officer use of force and officer injury.

Program Description

Program Goals
Police body-worn cameras are used by officers in the Birmingham South Local Policing Unit in the West Midlands Police force area in the United Kingdom. The Birmingham South serves approximately 286,000 residents from various socioeconomic levels but few ethnicities, compared with other areas of the West Midlands (Henstock 2015). The goals of the body-worn camera program are to reduce officer use of force, citizen injury, and officer injury. Body-worn cameras are also intended to improve procedural compliance from officers, evidence-gathering, and officer legitimacy and confidence during interactions with citizens.

Program Components
In Birmingham South, police officers are instructed to wear the cameras and begin recording incidents as soon as they leave their vehicles and conclude recording once the incident is resolved. During an arrest, the recording stays on until the detainee enters custody.

The body-worn cameras are equipped with a high visibility marking that indicate audio and visual recording. Once officers finish their shifts, the cameras are returned, and the footage is uploaded and deleted from the camera. The device is then recharged in an automated process. Police officers do not record the following: firearm incidents, public order and football deployments (i.e., preplanned events where standard recording methods are already employed), emergency situations where an electronic device constitutes a danger, and if there are explicit wishes from a victim not to record.

Program Theory
The use of body-worn cameras is rooted in deterrence theory and social surveillance theory. Deterrence theory posits that as the certainty of detection or apprehension for wrongdoing increases, the volume of criminal behavior should decrease. Body-worn cameras should increase people’s perceived risk of detection or apprehension for wrongdoing because their actions may be caught on camera (this applies to both suspects and police) (Paternoster 2010).

Additionally, with social surveillance theory, research suggests that people will adhere to social norms and change their conduct when they are aware that others are watching. When individuals are aware that their actions are being monitored, they become more aware of their actions, and should behave in a more socially acceptable manner and strive to avoid the negative outcomes associated with apprehension (Ariel et al. 2016).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Officer Use of Force
Henstock (2015) found that during treatment shifts in which officers were assigned to wear body-worn cameras, officers used force less frequently than on control shifts; however, this difference was not statistically significant.

Citizen Injury
During treatment shifts, in which officers were assigned to wear the body cameras, suspects experienced 16 recorded injuries. In the control shifts, suspects experienced 46 recorded injuries. The difference between the treatment and control conditions was statistically significant.

Officer Injury
Officers who wore the body cameras recorded fewer incidents of officer injury; however, this difference was not statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Henstock (2015) conducted a randomized controlled trial on the effects of police body-worn cameras on use-of-force incidence in the residential area of Birmingham South in the United Kingdom. The trial utilized the Birmingham South Local Policing Unit in the West Midlands Police force area. The Birmingham South serves approximately 286,000 residents from various socioeconomic levels but with few ethnicities relative to other areas of the West Midlands (Birmingham City Council 2015).

Officers were randomly allocated to shifts on a weekly basis, with treatment shifts using body-worn cameras and control shifts conducting business as usual. Data were collected for 6 months between June and December 2014. During the six-month study, a total of 215 shifts were allocated to the treatment group, and 215 shifts were allocated to the control group. A total of 46 officers participated in the study. Officers equipped with body-worn cameras were instructed to record all encounters with citizens during their shifts. No statistically significant baseline differences between the shifts assigned to the treatment and control conditions were detected.

The data were captured by West Midlands Police using a police software program called Discoverer 4i. This software captured relevant information that was reviewed to indicate types of force applied, any recorded injuries to the suspect or the officer, and when the arrest was made. Use of force was categorized as any of the following: the use of physical restraints, noncompliant handcuffs, batons, tear gas, drawing a taser, using a taser, or employing police dogs. odds ratios was used to test the differences in outcomes between the treatment and control shifts. A Fisher’s exact test was used to evaluate the statistical significance of the prevalence of injuries between the treatment and control group. No subgroup analysis was conducted.

The author acknowledged that having only 46 officers participating in the study was a limitation. In addition, it was noted that with 430 shifts, certain types of police use of force were relatively rare and therefore difficult to compare across treatment and control conditions.
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Cost

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The total cost of the body-worn cameras for the Birmingham South Police Department was around $1,061,648, with operating and data storage costing around $464,471 (Henstock 2015).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Henstock, D. 2015. “Testing the Effects of Body Worn Video on Police Use of Force during Arrest: A Randomised Controlled Trial.” Cambridge, England: Wolfson College. 

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Ariel, Barak, Alex Sutherland, Darren Henstock, Josh Young, Paul Drover, Jayne Sykes, Simon Megicks, and Ryan Henderson. 2016. “Report: Increases in Police Use of Force in the Presence of Body-Worn Cameras are Driven by Officer Discretion: A Protocol-Based Subgroup Analysis of Ten Randomized Experiments.” Journal of Experimental Criminology12:453–63.


Paternoster, Raymond. 2010. “How Much Do We Really Know about Criminal Deterrence.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 100(3):765–24. 

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Program Snapshot

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Violence Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Active