Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 445–458 | Cite as

The impact of on-officer video cameras on police–citizen contacts: findings from a controlled experiment in Mesa, AZ

  • Justin T. ReadyEmail author
  • Jacob T. N. Young



On-officer video camera (OVC) technology in policing is developing at a rapid pace. Large agencies are beginning to adopt the technology on a limited basis, and a number of cities across the United States have required their police departments to adopt the technology for all first responders. However, researchers have just begun to examine the effects of OVC technology on citizen complaints, officers’ attitudes, and police–citizen contacts.


This study examines officer behavior and perceptions of camera technology among 100 line officers in the Mesa Police Department during police–citizen encounters over a 10-month period. Experimental data from 3698 field contact reports were analyzed to determine whether being assigned to wear an OVC influences officer behavior and perceptions of OVC technology.


Bivariate and multilevel logistic regression analyses indicate that officers assigned to wear a camera were less likely to perform stop-and-frisks and make arrests, but were more likely to give citations and initiate encounters. Officers were also more likely to report OVCs as being helpful if they wore a camera and in situations where they issued a warning or citation, performed a stop-and-frisk, and made an arrest.


Our results provide important insights into the consequences of OVCs on police behavior and suggest that officers are more proactive with this technology without increasing their use of invasive strategies that may threaten the legitimacy of the organization.


Multilevel modeling On-officer video cameras Body-worn cameras Police accountability 



We would like to thank Chief Frank Milstead, Commander Tony Filler, Lt. Lee Rankin, and Sgt. Ryan Stokes for their leadership and commitment to this evaluation. We also thank Allyson Roy, David Bakardjiev, Doug Mellom, Karen Baker, Zaina Ayyoub, and Carmen Trujillo for their assistance in data entry and management. We appreciate the valuable insights provided in the field by Officers Justin Riding and Steve York. The paper is dedicated to the memory of Officer Brandon Mendoza. Officer Mendoza was one of the first officers to volunteer to wear an on-office video camera and a 13-year veteran of the Mesa Police Department. On May 12, 2014, he was killed in a collision with a drunk driver on his way home from his shift. He touched many lives as an officer, community advocate, and guardian.


  1. Fagan, J., Geller, A., Davies, G., & West, V. (2010). Street stops and broken windows revisited: The demography logic of proactive policing in a safe and changing city. In S. Rice & M. D. White (Eds.), Race, ethnicity and policing: New and essential readings (pp. 309–348). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Farrar, W., & Ariel, B. (2013). Self-awareness to being watched and socially desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras and police use of force. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.Google Scholar
  3. Home Office. (2007). Guidance for the police use of body-worn video devices. Police and crime standards directorate.Google Scholar
  4. Lovett, I. (8/21/13). In California, a champion for police cameras. New York Times. Available at:
  5. Mesa Police Department. (2013). On-officer body camera system: Program evaluation and recommendations. Mesa: Mesa Police Department.Google Scholar
  6. Munger, K., & Harris, S. J. (1989). Effects of an observer on hand washing in a public restroom. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69(3), 733–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Orlikowski, W. J., & Gash, D. C. (1994). Technological frames: making sense of information technology in organizations. ACM Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS), 12(2), 174–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Police and Crime Standards Directorate, Home Office of the U.K. (2007). Guidance for the police use of body-worn video devices. Available at:
  9. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). In J. DeLeeuw & R. Berk (Eds.), Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis (Vol. 1). CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Ready, J. T., & Young, J. T. N. (2014). Three myths about police body cams: filming interactions between law enforcement and citizens might not stop the next Ferguson from happening. Retrieved April 24, 2015 from
  11. Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  12. Young, J. T., & Ready J. T. (2014). Diffusion of policing technology: the role of networks in influencing the endorsement of on-officer video cameras. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, In Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA

Personalised recommendations