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The Use of Video Surveillance for Police Accountability: Benefits, Limitations, and Considerations

3 September, 2021



Increased calls for evidence-based policing, together with technological advancements in recent years, have led to a rise in the use of surveillance tools such as Closed-Circuit Television, dash-cams, and body-worn cameras in policing, both for accountability purposes and for crime prevention and responses. However, the effectiveness of such tools has often been questioned and concerns have been raised repeatedly about privacy, wrongful criminalization, the laterality of police officers’ access to footage, erratic and selective use of camera technology, and the erosion of civil rights.  

This Thematic Brief examines research on the use and impact of the application of surveillance tools on police-citizen interactions, specifically aiming at curbing or preventing police misconduct and improving therefore the accountability of police services.

The aim of the analysis is to discuss:

  • the extent to which surveillance tools bring the hypothesised benefits;
  • the disadvantages that arise out of their use; and
  • how these issues can be overcome.

Focusing on CCTV and BWCs, and with reference to dash-cams, this paper will explore the effect of surveillance on police accountability and the number of committed crimes or misconduct.

Finally, to contribute to the wider discussion around surveillance techniques and to promote the responsible use of video surveillance tools, several examples of common practices for law enforcement agencies are provided.