Measuring the effect of body-worn cameras on complaints in Latin America: The case of traffic police in Uruguay

Renée J. Mitchell, Barak Ariel*, Maria Emilia Firpo, Ricardo Fraiman, Federico del Castillo, Jordan M. Hyatt, Cristobal Weinborn, Hagit Brants Sabo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: More than a half a dozen published studies have observed the effect of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on complaints against the police. Nearly all, with varying degrees of methodological sophistication, tell a similar story: a strong reduction in complaints filed against the police once BWCs are in use. However, the entirety of the published evidence comes from English speaking countries, limited to the USA and the UK, and is restricted to the effects of BWCs on response policing. The purpose of this paper is to extend this body of research to Latin America, and to specialized policing jobs. Design/methodology/approach: The authors measured the consequence of equipping traffic police officers with BWCs in five out of the 19 traffic police departments in Uruguay (n=208), and compared these settings to both the pre-test figures as well as to the non-treatment departments. Interrupted time-series analyses and repeated measures of analysis were used for significance testing. Findings: Statistically significant differences emerged between the before–after as well as the between–groups comparisons: complaints were five times higher in the comparison vs the treatment jurisdictions, and there were 86 percent fewer cases compared to the pre-treatment period. Research limitations/implications: These outcomes suggest that the effect of BWCs on complaints is ubiquitous. Practical implications: The findings indicate that BWCs provide an effective solution for reducing grievances against the police, which can potentially be a marker of increased accountability, transparency and legitimacy for the Latin American law enforcement departments. Originality/value: This study is an extension of findings on BWCs to non-English-speaking police departments, with a focus on specialized policing rather than patrol policing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)510-524
Number of pages15
JournalPolicing
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Keywords

  • Accountability
  • Body-worn cameras
  • Citizen complaints
  • Latin America
  • Traffic police

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