Body-worn cameras (BWCs) for police have been getting substantial publicity lately. In national protests spurred by the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police officers, activists and families are calling for greater police accountability. Meanwhile, some police want proof of their perspective in a tense situation to avoid what they see as unfair blame. The increasing frequency of bystander cell phone video contributes to the public demand for video evidence of police encounters. However, the existence of BWC video calls into play a complex series of questions about privacy, surveillance, and access to the footage.
Some police departments are rushing to implement body-worn camera programs now, while some have had these programs active for several years. Many are starting with pilots with a small number of their officers and one or more types of cameras to test out equipment and policies. All sides agree that it is important to have clear rules in place that tell officers when to record and to specify what will happen to the video. However, there is a complex debate over the contents of these policies.
To help foster and inform this discussion, we have pulled together body camera policies from many police departments that have made them publicly available, as well as model policies from several organizations. Click on each dot on the map to see key facts about each city’s policy; the categories are described in more detail below. In addition, the charts linked below compare the policies in a number of areas, including those indicating major differences in the policies. For details, click on city names to read the policies in full. Additional policies will be added as they become available.