The distribution of police use of force across patrol and specialty units: a case study in BWC impact

Academic Article


  • Objectives: To examine differences in use of force by police patrol and specialized units, and the impact of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on use of force in these groups. Methods: We use administrative data from the Tempe (AZ) Police Department collected during a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of BWCs. t tests of means and ARIMA models were constructed to analyze unit-level variation in use of force. Results: Tempe officers in specialized units use substantially more force than patrol officers. BWCs had no impact on use of force among patrol officers but were associated with a significant decline in force among specialty unit officers who received BWCs in the second phase of the study. Conclusion: Unit-level variations in force can have implications for selection, training, and other areas of police practice. Additionally, our findings show the necessity of accounting for group variation within departments when assessing the impact of BWCs on outcomes like use of force.
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  • Gaub JE; Todak N; White MD