Police Innovators, Thought Leaders, and Role Models: An Examination of the Impacts of Organizational Characteristics and Environmental Factors on Early Body-worn Camera Adoption

Jennifer B. Embrey

Advisor: Christopher Koper, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Cynthia Lum, Cody Telep

Online Location, Online
April 19, 2022, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


Police often turn to innovations for solutions to problems, and a small percentage of police departments embrace innovations well in advance of the majority and without knowledge of evaluation research that supports adoption. These groups, innovators and early adopters, are responsible for introducing new technologies to the law enforcement community. Diffusion of innovation theory may help explain this well-documented trend in policing, namely that innovations are likely to be adopted without thorough review because the majority adopt based on subjective assessments of early adopters. The early adopters are seen as thought leaders or role models within their social networks and, therefore, reduce the uncertainty surrounding a new idea by adopting it and then sharing their subjective assessment with their social network. Additionally, they provide valuable feedback on the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies and thus communicate their confidence in the value of new ideas to their peers.

 Research on body-worn cameras (BWCs) has primarily concentrated on outcomes (e.g., citizen complaints, officer use of force incidents, officer perceptions) and their widespread adoption. Few studies, however, have examined how and why some police departments adopted BWCs while others did not. In addition, the factors influencing police innovation adoption have long been debated within the policing research community. Disputes about the causes and correlates of organizational innovation illustrate this point. While a few studies have identified factors influencing law enforcement officers' adoption of body-worn cameras or other innovations in police technology in general, none have examined early adopters in detail and examined organizational and environmental factors within the same model. Several factors identified in organizational theories and literature are likely to be significant; however, the specific relationship between these factors and early body-worn camera adoption is not clear.

This project is designed to fill these gaps by investigating the relationship between organizational and environmental factors and early adoption decisions in a national sample of law enforcement agencies drawn from the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) surveys conducted in 2007 and 2013. Descriptive analyses revealed that nearly 22% of agencies in the sample had adopted BWCs by 2013. Moreover, the binomial logistic regression models predicting early BWC adoption indicated that departments with prior innovation adoptions, specifically patrol car cameras and community policing activities, were associated with early adoption. Furthermore, the findings indicate that region, collective bargaining, and internal forms of regulation may be associated with early BWC, thus supporting the hypothesis that stakeholders inside and outside of an organization have the most substantial influence on the adoption of early innovations.