Use-of-force complaints decrease significantly for police departments equipped with body cameras, but the cost could hold some, like the Phoenix Police Department, from taking advantage of this technology.
A year-long study evaluating the effect of body-worn video cameras in police patrol practices by the Police Foundation Executive Fellow, Chief Tony Farrar, found a 50 percent decrease in the number of use-of-force complaints against officers wearing the cameras.
It would cost at least $3.5 million to equip all first-responding Phoenix officers with body cameras, Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner said. That price estimate includes the costs to gather and store footage, but wouldn’t cover the cost of personnel.
Many small and medium-sized cities like Austin and Minneapolis are utilizing these cameras to increase police accountability and transparency in light of growing tension between communities and local police departments around the country.
Phoenix, the country’s sixth most populated city, is moving toward using body cameras after an Arizona State University study found that complaints against officers decreased when actions of both officers and citizens were recorded.
A study of Mesa police officers who wore body cameras saw a 40 percent decrease in total complaints and a 75 percent decrease in the number of use-of-force complaints over the course of a year.
In order for Phoenix to implement this technology, police would have to create a policy that dictates how to manage and edit mass quantities of data, then share it with prosecutors.
In the near future, supporters advocating for Phoenix police to wear body cameras say that both citizens and officers would benefit. Officers would be protected from false allegations and citizens could rest assured knowing that all interactions with police would be recorded.