fbpx

More On World’s First Study Of Body-worn Cameras In Action

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A groundbreaking study of body-worn cameras first reported by Force Science News 18 months ago has now been published in a professional journal, with additional commentary.

An abstract of the research can be accessed free of charge, with an option to buy the full study, by clicking here, which will take you to the website for the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

The research comprised a yearlong experiment conducted at the Rialto (CA) PD, a mid-size agency that serves a population of 100,000 residents, more than half of them minorities. The city, home to a number of large-scale hard goods warehousers and shippers, experiences an above-average crime rate, with a homicide rate that is nearly 50% higher than the US average. More than 20% of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

For 12 months, Rialto’s 54 frontline officers all were assigned randomly to wear or not wear Taser HD Axon Flex video/audio cameras attached to their clothing during each of their 12-hr. shifts. On shifts when they wore cameras, “the officers were instructed to have them on during every encounter with members of the public, with the exception of incidents involving sexual assaults of minors and dealing with police informants,” the study team explains.

Nearly 1,000 shifts around the clock were monitored in all, and all participating officers experienced both camera and non-camera working conditions.

Recorded video was automatically uploaded at the end of each tour, and the research team had full access to this “rich” database in what they claim was the world’s first test of the effect of body cams on police-subject interactions.

The results were dramatic.

For three years prior to the experiment, the PD posted roughly 65 use-of-force incidents per year. (UOF was considered “physical force that is greater than basic control or ‘compliance holds’ ” and included OC spray, baton strikes, TASER deployment, K9 bites, or firearms.) In the year before the experiment, 24 citizens lodged grievances against officers.

During the experimental period, the UOF rate dropped significantly, to 25 incidents total, a reduction of 58% to 64% compared to previous years. Only eight of the incidents occurred when officers were wearing body cams. In other words, during the test period the likelihood of force being used was roughly doubled when cameras were not deployed.

Citizen complaints plunged to a total of 3, a precipitous drop of 88%.

The research team’s commentary on these findings includes these observations:

  • Extensive research shows that people tend to “adhere to social norms and change their conduct” once they’re aware that their behavior is being observed. Under camera scrutiny, they “become more conscious that unacceptable behaviors will be captured on film,” with detection “perceived as certain.” Body-worn cameras (BWCs) convey a “straight-forward, pragmatic message: ‘You are being watched, videotaped, and expected to follow the rules.’ “
  • This “self-awareness effect” caused by the camera’s “neutral third eye” affects the psyches of officers and suspects alike, prompting suspects to “cool down” aggressive actions and deterring officers “from reacting with excessive or unnecessary force.” Neither party wants to “get caught engaging in socially undesirable behavior that may have costly consequences.”
  • “[E]ven police subcultures of acceptable but illegitimate force responses are likely to be affected by the cameras,” the researchers write, “because misconduct cannot go undetected…. Police-public encounters become more transparent and the curtain of silence that protects misconduct can more easily be unveiled….” On the other hand, cameras may “force” officers “to endure stressful situations and arguably accept some forms of disrespect that without the cameras [they] would normally not.”
  • The study revealed an interesting “spillover effect.” Overall, the use of force and citizen complaints declined both when cameras were in use and when they weren’t, the researchers point out. They speculate that this may reflect a conscious effort by officers without cameras during a given shift to competitively improve their behavior to favorably match that of fellow officers who had the “advantage” of wearing a body cam.
  • There’s a “training potential” in body-worn videos. The footage “can be used to ‘coach’ officers about how they conduct themselves,” the researchers write. “We envision future police training to incorporate one-on-one sessions in which junior officers train with their own footage…and potentially improve their demeanor when dealing with suspects, victims, and witnesses.”
  • While the researchers consider a cost/benefit analysis to favor BWCs, they acknowledge that one “price” is presently unclear: “What are the direct and indirect costs of storing, sharing, and managing digital evidence?” As the “velocity and volume of data” grow exponentially over time, “user licenses, storage space, security costs, maintenance, and system upgrades can potentially translate into billions of dollars worldwide.”
  • However, “the cost of not having video footage may have direct implications on decisions to prosecute or on criminal proceedings more generally.” Historically, testimony by officers in court against defendants has “carried tremendous weight…. Yet it is very likely that defense attorneys, judges, the jury, and the public as a whole would steadfastly assign more weight to digital evidence…. [W]ould district attorneys…be reluctant to prosecute when there is no evidence from body-worn devices to corroborate the testimony of the officer… Would cases be dismissed if arrests or stop-and-frisk were conducted without a body-worn video, given the possible violation of human rights? Will officers’ credibility in court be assumed to be violated when police-public encounters are not recorded?”

Time will tell whether such potential consequences will prove to offset the benefits of BWCs, the researchers say.

Meantime, “mistrust and a lack of confidence…already characterize some communities’ perception of their local police,” they note. “It may take just one or a handful of cases” of unnecessary or excessive force to further “damage the legitimacy of the police” and inflict “tremendous costs” on agencies already struggling financially “in an era of austerity….

“Completely eradicating illegitimate use-of-force is unlikely, as some force will always be required against some offenders in some circumstances. Any approach should still allow for legitimate use-of-force…but for all other circumstances, a reductionist approach should aim to dramatically ‘cool down’ encounters.”

Based on the findings of this study, which the research team urges other departments to replicate in their own jurisdictions, BWCs appear to be a potentially valuable tool in achieving that goal, while “enhancing police legitimacy and transparency, increasing prosecution rates, and improving evidence capture….”

The researchers authoring the study are William Farrar, chief of Rialto PD, and Drs. Barak Ariel and Alex Sutherland of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge in England.

Our original report on this research, based in large part on an interview with Chief Farrar, who directly managed the experiment, can be accessed by clicking here. 

GDPR

  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.

Analytics

We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: support@forcescience.org
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.