Survey: Police Body Cameras Aren't a Fix for All

William Sousa, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy, with a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer.
Jul. 30, 2015

Media Contact: Afsha Bawany, UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, (702) 895-5139

Public support for body-worn cameras is high but many doubt they will improve police and citizen relationships, according to a new national survey by UNLV Center for Crime and Justice Policy.

LAS VEGAS – July 30, 2015 –UNLV Criminal Justice researchers released results from a national public opinion survey  of body worn cameras on police officers.

Citizens were asked their general awareness of the cameras, opinions on the potential advantages and consequences, policies and support for the cameras in various policing situations.

Many people surveyed believe cameras could improve transparency but do not want media to access video footage. Respondents were also concerned cameras could infringe on privacy rights.

The online survey was conduced in May 2015 and a total of 635 people 18 or older across the U.S. responded. The respondents were primarily male, white, and over 30 years old.

Public opinion varied on how body cameras might impact relationships between the police and community. People are less optimistic cameras will improve relationships between police and citizens, particularly relationships with minority citizens.

William Sousa, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy at UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, cautions the survey was conducted within a year of several controversial cases involving police and citizen interactions that resulted in death. A heightened awareness of current events and a federal push for body worn cameras provide context to the public’s opinion in the report.

“The relationship between police and citizens and police and minority citizens is far more complex than can be solved by a particular type of technology,” Sousa said. “For the most part, people are far more suspicious of the ability to improve relationships, even though much of the federal push has stemmed from racial tensions resulting from recent cases involving police and citizens.”Collaborating with Sousa on the study were Terance D. Miethe and Mari Sakiyama in the Department of Criminal Justice at UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. Additional research briefs can be found on the Center for Crime and Justice Policy website.

Read more on the UNLV News Center.