To Watch or Not to Watch: When Reviewing Body-Worn Camera Footage Improves Police Reports

Annelies Vredeveldt*, Linda Kesteloo, Alieke Hildebrandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: We assessed how police officers’ review of body-worn camera (BWC) footage, either before or after writing an initial report, affects subsequent police reports. Hypotheses: We had competing hypotheses regarding the effect of BWC footage review before writing a police report on the total amount of informa-tion reported (Hypothesis 1) but expected it to increase “on-camera” details while reducing “off-camera” details (Hypothesis 2) and increase the accuracy of reports (Hypothesis 3). We predicted that footage review after writing an initial report would result in more complete and more accurate revised reports (Hypothesis 4). Method: We conducted a field experiment with 102 Dutch police officers taking part in a training exer-cise in which they responded, in pairs, to an emergency call about physical abuse. One of the pair members wore a BWC. After interacting with and arresting the suspect, the officers went into separate rooms to write individual police reports. One pair member first watched the BWC footage and then wrote the report (watch first condition); the other pair member first wrote the report, then watched the footage and could revise the original report (write first condition). Results: Surprisingly, reports in the watch first condition did not differ significantly in amount, observability on footage, or accuracy from original or revised reports in the write first condition. However, police officers in the write first condition significantly improved both the amount and accuracy of their reports after footage review, though effect sizes were small (amount: d =.13, 95% CI [.08,.18]; accuracy: d =.20, [.05,.36]). Conclusions: We recommend that police officers watch BWC foot-age only after they have written down their memories of the incident. If they revise their report after watch-ing the footage, they should clearly identify the revisions made alongside the source of those revisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-439
Number of pages13
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Technology in the Legal and Criminal Justice Systems, Guest Editors: David DeMatteo, Jennifer Cox.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a Police and Science Grant awarded to Annelies Vredeveldt and Linda Kesteloo. We thank the members of the steering committee for their useful input: Marta Dozy, Kees Loef, Sander Flight, Lonneke Stevens, Robert Horselenberg, and Sanne Smit. We are also grateful to the police employees who have facilitated the research: Gerard Willemsen, Johan Ekkelboom, Damien Kreuk, and their colleagues at the training facility in Amsterdam and Danny Pennings, Michael Tjin A Djie, Egbert van Riesen, Rob van Zwol, and their colleagues at the training facility in Almere. We are greatly indebted to Dewi Hollander, Renske van der Steen, and Eva van Rosmalen for their help with collecting and processing the data. Last but not least, we are grateful to all the police officers who participated in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Psychological Association


  • Body worn cameras
  • Memory
  • Police
  • Police reports
  • Video footage


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