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Research Questions

  1. What are the benefits and risks posed by BWCs?
  2. What are the overall effects of BWCs on pilot participants?
  3. Did the pilot meet ICE's goals?
  4. What are benefits, costs, and risks that pertain to the continued use of BWCs?
  5. What are recommendations for future use and implementation strategies for BWCs?

Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) researchers conducted an independent assessment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) pilot body-worn camera (BWC) program for personnel assigned to Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations.

This report summarizes the findings from a mixed-methods analysis, in which researchers collected and analyzed data from BWCs and observed BWCs in training and operational environments with pilot participants. The analysis was supplemented by data and observations collected by ICE and analyzed by the authors. Researchers studied the BWC pilot program to better understand issues related to (1) trust and transparency, (2) user adoption and effectiveness, (3) implementation of BWCs, and (4) efficacy of the technology.

The resulting findings and recommendations cover a comprehensive variety of topics, including benefits and risks, human factors, policy and training considerations, and considerations for future ICE BWC procurement.

Key Findings

  • Although there were not significant reductions in uses of force or complaints observed for those wearing BWCs, the team also did not observe significant increases in these outcomes. Uses of force and complaints occurred so rarely that it would have taken thousands of additional operations to be able to tell whether BWC use made a difference.
  • In one notable case, BWC footage disproved a safety allegation made against one of the pilot units.
  • Concerns about potential leakage of BWC footage need to be addressed as the BWC effort goes forward.
  • ICE officers' perceived benefits of BWC use focused on protection from complaints and lawsuits and on assistance in training and reporting.
  • Perceived risks centered on unauthorized disclosure and use and on cognitive risks.
  • The most-discussed perceived benefits for the public — reduced officer uses of force and reduced numbers of assaults on officers — were secondary in observations and discussions.
  • There need to be procedures and trained personnel in place to avoid improper disclosures in video released to the public.
  • There need to be procedures and trained personnel in place to avoid improper disclosures during discovery processes.

Recommendations

  • ICE should ensure that there are policies, procedures, and training provisions that protect against tactical and personally identifiable information being improperly released. These provisions need to include working with external partners that are receiving footage, such as U.S. Attorneys' Offices, to ensure that video revealing sensitive information is protected.
  • ICE should continue to monitor whether and to what extent BWC usage results in increases in subjects refusing searches.
  • As deployments of BWCs increase, ICE should continue to monitor whether BWC usage and notifications of such usage are associated with changes in behavior, as well as significant changes in uses of force, complaints, and assaults on officers.
  • Freedom of Information Act personnel involved in redaction and reviewing video prior to release should have sufficient operational expertise to know what to redact; procedures should be in place for reviewing returned video clips to ensure that they do not disclose sensitive information.

This research was sponsored by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Regulatory Affairs and Policy and conducted in the Management, Technology, and Capabilities Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division (HSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.