Phoenix police body cam study shows more convictions

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A pilot program shows police body cameras have a big impact on the number of people found guilty of crimes and the number of complaints against officers.

Arizona State University has been studying body cameras being used by Phoenix police in the Maryvale precinct since April of 2013. On Wednesday, police and researchers released preliminary results of the ongoing study.

In more than 2,000 domestic violence cases looked at by researchers, body cameras resulted in higher rates of conviction and guilty pleas. The study also found that complaints against officers wearing body cams dropped 23 percent, while complaints against officers without cameras rose 11 percent.

Those numbers seem to back up the trends seen by departments already using body cams as part of regular duty patrolling.

“There have been occasions where we have shown the (person accusing an officer of abuse) that information, shown them the actual video of their contact, and they chose not to make a complaint anymore at that point, where the allegation was clearly not what they said it was,” said Mesa Police Det. Steve Berry.

The Mesa Police Department has been using body cameras since 2011. The department started with just 50 cameras and is currently using about 175. The cameras have worked so well the department plans to have a body cam on every patrol officer in the city by next year.

“Let’s face it. We all behave just a little bit differently when we know the world is watching. Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think it's great for everybody,” Berry said.

Police aren’t the only ones looking at the usefulness of body cameras. 

On Wednesday, Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, cited national unrest and distrust of police when introducing House Bill 2511, which would require cameras to be worn by every law enforcement officer in Arizona.

“When you have body cameras, you have an extra set of eyes -- another pair of eyes that's there that's currently providing trust. Because we're at a point where, at this time, it's one person's word against the other's,” Bolding said.

One of the biggest hurdles to Bolding's bill would be funding. He admits that has yet to be worked out.

But overall, body cams seem to be getting good reviews everywhere they’re rolling.

“It simply levels the playing field for everyone, whether you’re the officer wearing the camera or the person on the other side of the camera," Berry said. "Again, it's not going to take sides; it's just going to capture the information."