The impact of body worn video (BWV) on stop and search in England and Wales

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Warwick

In Collaboration With

West Midlands Police

Principal Researcher

Sharda Ramdewor

Level of Research

PhD

Project Start Date

October 2015

Research Context

BWV has the potential to address many of the persisting concerns around the fair and proportionate use of stop and search powers.

Since their inception, stop and search powers have been controversial. Statistics have repeatedly demonstrated that black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals are stopped at a disproportionately higher rate than white individuals. Qualitative research has also consistently shown that the quality of stop and search interactions between the public and the police has been poor, with many individuals believing they have been stopped in the absence of reasonable suspicion, and on the basis of stereotypes instead.

Due to the low visibility nature of stop and search, and the inadequacy of the current recording requirements, it has been difficult to ‘police’ any potential misuses of police discretion. The persistent disproportionality in stop and search also has far-reaching consequences for public confidence in the police and public perceptions of police legitimacy, which could be detrimental to securing the willing cooperation of citizens.

This research will test the hypothesis that BWV can provide greater visibility of stop and search encounters, thereby providing an opportunity to reduce some of the problems associated with stop and search. BWV footage can help us understand why stop and search encounters are racially disproportionate and may have an impact upon the selection of citizens for stop and search. It is suggested that the civilising effect which BWV may have, may encourage officers to conduct stop and searches in a more procedurally just manner, thereby potentially strengthening public confidence in the police and police legitimacy. It will also consider whether BWV can increase transparency and strengthen accountability through greater visibility, recording and monitoring provisions. The impact on officer self-legitimacy will also be considered.

This research is supported by West Midlands Police.

Research Methodology

​Mixed methods approach including:

  1. Coding of BWV footage for elements of procedural justice
  2. Interviewing officers and members of the public to gain a better insight into how, if at all, they consider BWV has changed the nature of stop and search interactions, both in relation to officer behaviour and their own behaviour
  3. Consideration of stop and search numbers, complaints and stop and search records, since the introduction of BWV.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

October 2020
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