Our research has revealed that many police departments are failing to adopt adequate safeguards to ensure that constitutional rights are protected. In particular, we have discovered that year after year, the vast majority of the nation's leading police departments with body-worn camera programs allow unrestricted footage review – meaning, officers are permitted to review footage from body-worn cameras whenever they'd like, including before writing their incident reports or making statements.
This report seeks to illuminate the ways that unrestricted footage review places civil rights at risk and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability. We urge police departments to instead adopt what we call "clean reporting," a simple two-step process where an initial report is recorded based only on an officer's independent recollection of an event and then a second, supplemental report can be added to a case file to address any clarifications after footage is reviewed. We make the case that in the interests of consistency, fairness, transparency and accountability, clean reporting should be adopted as a standard practice for all police departments with body-worn camera programs.