U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Https

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Implementation

Body-Worn Camera Toolkit
Description

Implementing an effective body-worn camera (BWC) program involves far more than procuring and disseminating equipment to officers. Before launching a program, an agency should develop a comprehensive plan and engage a broad group of criminal justice stakeholders and community members. Working groups composed of these individuals should help develop documented policies and procedures that address the six most common BWC policy areas (video capture, viewing, use, release, storage, and audits/controls). Technical solutions are designed and procured based on an agency's specific hardware and software requirements that leverage regional data storage opportunities and larger government procurements. Lastly, an effective BWC program is supported by a comprehensive communication and education campaign that involves stakeholders in law enforcement, courts, prosecution, the defense bar, civic leadership, labor organizations, victim and juvenile advocacy, the media, and the public. As such, many programs launch in phases and include post-implementation evaluation, monitoring, and measurement.

BWC Podcast Series

For more about these topics, please check out the BWC Podcast Series

Go to the Podcasts

Subject Matter Experts Share

Featured Resources

Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program

COPS BWC Guide

This Police Executive Research Forum document captures lessons-learned and recommendations for implementing body-worn camera programs

Review the Document


NIJ Primer

NIJ BWC Primer

NLECTC published a primer that answers basic questions about body-worn cameras and implementation issues

Read the Primer


Flyer for guidance for the use of body-worn cameras

Canada’s BWC Implementation Guidance Document

Guidance for the Use of Body-Worn Cameras by Law Enforcement Authorities

Read the Implementation Guidance


Poster for 2014 College of Policing Body-Worn Video

UK Recommendations

The UK College of Policing released a recommendation document to assist agencies wishing to implement body-worn video programs

Review the Document


Expert Panel

BJA Expert Panel

Justice professionals representing law enforcement, courts, prosecution, public defense, labor organizations, and advocates for privacy, victims, and juveniles initiated Toolkit discussions

Read about discussions


Flyer for OJP Comprehensive Body-Worn Camera Program

OJP BWC FAQs

Office of Justice Programs Comprehensive Body-Worn Camera Program

Read the FAQs


 

Implementation FAQs

Enter search criteria

Sort by

Departments vary in how they have implemented body-worn camera (BWC) programs. However, there are two common themes.

First, the vast majority of departments have implemented their BWC programs with officers assigned to patrol. The rationale for deploying the technology with front-line patrol officers is that officers on patrol have the most contact with the public. Some departments have also expanded their use of BWCs beyond patrol into specialized units such as K-9, SWAT, specialized driving under the influence teams, and investigations.

Second, many departments have adopted an incremental approach to deployment by restricting use to a small number of officers for an initial pilot period. Departments have found that this type of approach helps to overcome potential officer anxiety and resistance and enables a department to make mid-term revisions as it learns how this technology affects the community as a whole. Such a strategy also allows other units in the department the time to adapt to the new technology. In many cases, the initial group of officers assigned to wear cameras are volunteers who often become "internal champions" for the technology.

Lindsay Miller from the Police Executive Research Forum stated, "The decision to implement a BWC program should not be entered lightly–once implemented it is hard to scale back from that course. Agencies need to thoughtfully examine the idea of a BWC program and have written policies in place (something not all agencies do)."

A two-page Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Law Enforcement Implementation Checklist was created for your download and use in implementing a new body-worn camera program from learning the fundamental all the way to a phased rollout. This guide captures the seven key focus areas to a comprehensive program plan and provided references back to this BWC Toolkit where relevant.

Evaluations of body-worn camera (BWC) programs vary is scope and nature. At a minimum, we believe the implementing agency should consider conducting both process and impact evaluations. The process evaluation should capture the planning and deployment process, including the names of officers who have been assigned cameras. These officers should undergo routine compliance audits to determine whether or not they are activating their BWC when required by departmental policy. These audit reports should be provided to the officer and their supervisor on a monthly basis, and should be compiled into an annual department-wide compliance report. This annual report should be provided to the community’s risk management unit. Impact evaluations vary considerably in their methodological rigor, from one group pre- and post-studies to randomized controlled trials. Generally, the more rigorous the better. The impact evaluation should, at a minimum, compare various outcome measures by individual assigned a BWC one year pre- and post-implementation. Outcome measures examining the impact of the BWC’s might include number of complaints, number of complaints sustained, use of force incidents, and number of resisting arrest incidents. For example, a department might compare the number of complaints one year prior to an officer being assigned the BWC to the one year period following the assignment of the BWC. For many agencies it is helpful to partner with a local college or university to evaluate the implementation of the BWC program, particularly in the programs first few years of implementation.

For more information, see:

Phoenix, Arizona: http://cvpcs.asu.edu/sites/default/files/content/projects/PPD_SPI_Final_Report%204_28_15.pdf

Is This a Good Quality Outcome Evaluation Report? A Guide for Practitioners: https://www.bja.gov/evaluation/reference/Quality_Outcome_Eval.pdf

The Maryland Scientific Methods Scale: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=198650

The backend of the implementation of a body-worn camera (BWC) program requires a great deal of coordination. Criminal investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, forensic scientists, evidence technologists, public information officers, information technology specialists, and other personnel all need to be trained on BWC policies and need to develop their own policies and procedures for processing and using video obtained through BWCs. For example, personnel associated with the courts (e.g., prosecutors, defense attorneys) need to develop strategies for tracking and reviewing evidence obtained through BWCs; information technology specialists need to purchase and install equipment and software; and public information officers need to establish and implement protocols for releasing information obtained through BWCs. Prosecutors also need to have timely access to recorded data, as delays in gaining access could affect the adjudication of a criminal case. Law enforcement agencies should keep prosecutors and judges apprised of changes to their BWC program, especially with regard to expansion. As more cameras are deployed to officers, prosecutors (and defense attorneys) may have to adjust staffing accordingly. According to Vicki Hill, Acting City of Phoenix (AZ) Prosecutor, for every 100 cameras added by the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department, the prosecutor's office needed to hire or re-assign a new staff member.

Participants in the February 26-27, 2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Camera Expert Panel were unanimous in emphasizing the early and ongoing involvement of the prosecution community in planning and implementing a BWC program. Like other law enforcement participants, Michael Kurtenbach of the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department stated, "agencies need to involve prosecutors, the community, etc.…because the development of BWC policy needs to be well-understood and comprehensive." To expound on the need, Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler from San Diego (CA) County said, "anybody in charge of developing a body-worn camera policy should first consult prosecutors and civil liabilities attorneys." He further warned that "agencies will have problems, so they need policies in place about retention, access, and timely discovery before activation, or cases will be delayed." Vicki Hill, Acting City of Phoenix (AZ) Prosecutor, reminded the panel about the significant impact BWCs have on the prosecutor community, sharing that an "Arizona state statute dictates that we have to redact certain personally identifying information (PII) about the victims before turning it over to the defense attorney. Prosecutors have to view it, determine what has to be redacted, then render it–which takes twice as long as the length of the video to get the output. Huge financial staffing resources are required for editing video files." Expounding upon the need for prosecutor involvement, Kay Chopard Cohen, National District Attorneys Association, explained, "From a prosecutor's perspective, we need to worry about victim safety and confidentiality, about the safety of innocent bystanders." Chopard Cohen further explained, "BWCs add a layer of complexity; we want to see what happened, but sometimes when an officer responds, it is not ripe for public viewing. There are situations where we have to educate the public and legislatures that this should not be available for public viewing."

There are a handful of useful resources on body-worn cameras (BWC). The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office published a report in 2014 that examines key issues and offers policy recommendations. The report is based on survey responses from 254 agencies, interviews with 40 law enforcement executives who have implemented BWCs, and outcomes from a one-day conference held on September 11, 2013, that included more than 200 law enforcement executives, scholars, and experts. In April 2014, the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center published a report that describes the core issues surrounding the technology and examines the state of research on those issues (White, 2014). In March 2014, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published a market survey that compared BWC vendors across a range of categories. There is also a growing number of published evaluations that examine the implementation, impact, and consequences of body-worn cameras. This web site and toolkit is intended to be a clearinghouse of the latest available research, reports, and knowledge on the technology.

For additional information, see:

For additional evaluations from around the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, see:

Or view BWC Toolkit Research Resources with the category of Implementation Experiences

In general, when estimating the cost of implementing a body-worn camera (BWC) program, three types of costs should be considered.

  • Capital outlay. This can include the number of BWCs, mounting kits, tablets, field viewers, and docking stations.
  • Operational costs. Data storage, software, and redaction costs are included in this category as well as costs associated with officer BWC administration (download time, reviewing video) and any efforts required to track and provide the video to the courts.
  • Replacement costs. This is related to repairs, upgrades to next-generation technology, warranties, and replacements.

Law enforcement agencies may be required to follow their jurisdiction's procurement processes in order to purchase BWCs. This process sometimes requires the creation of a committee in charge of the procurement process, preparation of a request for proposal (RFP), review of vendor bids, and a selection process. Agency leaders should consult with their jurisdiction’s leadership to ensure that requirements for equipment purchases are followed.

In addition to the hardware and data storage costs, departments have identified other expenses. For example, "Many agencies appoint at least one full-time officer to manage the camera program. Agencies must provide ongoing training programs, ensure that cameras are properly maintained, fix technical problems, and address any issues of officer noncompliance." (PERF, 2014: 32)

The costs of managing a BWC program are extensive and must be considered long-term. Weighing costs has helped departments place principled limitations on their program. This analysis should be part of the implementation design and discussion with other criminal justice officials and the community at large. Considerations may include:

  • Limiting the types of encounters that must be recorded.
  • Adopting shorter data-retention time periods.
  • Seeking private funding to support the program.
  • Developing other storage options for videos that must be kept for longer periods of time (e.g., saving critical incidents to a separate internal drive or to a disk).

This type of evaluation can help agencies understand the costs and benefits of the technology, and can also facilitate conversations with other stakeholders about the technology.

For more information, see:

There is a wide-range of important issues that may be governed by a law enforcement agency’s internal administrative policy. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report (PERF, 2014:37) identifies a range of key policy issues, including:

  • Basic camera usage: who will wear the cameras; where will the cameras be worn (hat, sunglasses, chest, etc.).
  • Designated staff member: identify who is responsible for maintaining, charging, reporting, documenting malfunctions, and issuing new cameras.
  • Recording protocols: when to activate and deactivate camera, and when recording is required, discretionary, and prohibited.
  • Video downloading process: who will download, when download will occur, where data will be stored, and how it will be safeguarded from tampering.
  • Method for documenting chain of custody.
  • Data retention periods for different categories of recorded data (evidentiary, non-evidentiary).
  • Process for accessing and reviewing data: identify who is authorized to review and under what circumstances (e.g., individual officers, supervisors).
  • Process for releasing recorded data to the public, including redaction processes, timelines for release, and data specifically prohibited from release.
  • Process for contracting with third-party vendors for data storage.

Other resources for policy considerations include: a report by the National Institute of Justice Sensor, Surveillance, and Biometric Technologies (SSBT) Center of Excellence (2012); the International Association of Chiefs of Police Body-Worn Cameras Model Policy; and the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center Report (White, 2014).

Several policy areas are described in greater detail below.

Agencies have varied considerably in the content and structure of their department policies. Many agencies have made their policies publicly available, or they will furnish their policy upon request. A number of policies have been collected by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and are available in this toolkit. In addition, there are currently several model policies available for review. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has devised a model policy. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report (PERF, 2014) also includes a number of policy recommendations. In the United Kingdom, policy resources are available through a United Kingdom Home Office report (Goodall, 2007).

For more information, see:

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has dedicated $2 million to fund two or three body-worn camera (BWC) projects as part of the Smart Policing Initiative in fiscal year 2015. As part of President Obama's Community Policing Initiative, $20 million is available to support BWC purchases and programs in fiscal year 2015. The President has proposed an additional $30 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget. Finally, the BJA Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) is a valuable resource for communities to use to procure this equipment.

For more information, see:

In May 2015, Department of Justice Today announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot Partnership Program to respond to the immediate needs of local and tribal law enforcement organizations. The investment includes $17 million in competitive grants for the purchase of BWCs, $2 million for training and technical assistance, and $1 million for the development of evaluation tools to study best practices. The pilot program is part of President Obama’s proposal to invest $75 million over three years to purchase 50,000 BWCs for law enforcement agencies.

Administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, under the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the BWC Pilot Partnership Program will provide support to help law enforcement agencies develop, implement, and evaluate BWC programs across the United States.

The Justice Department expects to provide 50 awards to law enforcement agencies, with about one-third of the grants directed toward smaller law enforcement agencies. The grants, which require a 50/50 in-kind or cash match, can be used to purchase equipment, but applicants must establish a strong plan for BWC implementation and a robust training policy before purchasing cameras. The long-term costs associated with storing this information will be the financial responsibility of each local agency.

Another $2 million will fund a national BWC training and technical assistance provider through a competitive process. This training and technical assistance will provide support to law enforcement agencies to successfully develop and implement their BWC programs.

OJP's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) will receive $1 million of the funds to collect data on BWC usage through surveys of law enforcement agencies. BJS will also design data collection forms that can be used in future surveys of prosecutors and defense attorneys to measure how BWC footage is being used by the courts in criminal cases.

For more information, see: