A CBA Discussion of Body-worn Cameras

Watch the full video of our panel on applying CBA to body-worn cameras.

The decision of whether to adopt a new policing technology can be very complex and fraught. At the Policing Project, we believe that Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) is an important tool that can help police and communities decide whether a particular technology is right for them.

Take body-worn cameras, for example.

As part of our recent conference, The Benefits—And Costs—Of Policing, our panel of experts worked through what a basic CBA of body-worn cameras (BWCs) might look like. They addressed a variety of questions, including: What did departments hope to accomplish by adopting BWCs? Have the cameras lived up to expectations? Were there any unintended consequences from their use? Was there anything departments could have done on the front end to maximize the benefits of using BWCs, or to minimize some of their attendant costs?

What the discussion made clear is that CBA can be a powerful policy-making tool for ensuring sound regulation of policing technologies. Although it may be difficult to quantify the “benefit” of promoting transparency and trust, without clear policies in place for releasing video after high-profile incidents, for example, departments may not see these benefits at all.

By sitting down and thinking through possible costs and benefits of a program or technology, departments can better articulate what they hope to accomplish, and ensure they have the policies to match.


This panel was presented as part of the Policing Project’s “The Benefits—And Costs—Of Policing” conference on September 21, 2018. Explore the conference page for additional resources, video, and more.