As protests across the nation continue to draw attention to use of force by police, some people have suggested body cameras could increase transparency and accountability among officers. Little evidence exists to support the perceived advantages or disadvantages to implementing the cameras. A study published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice is the first to look at how law enforcement leaders feel about the use of body cameras. Law enforcement attitudes could be critical to making body cameras mainstream because law enforcement leaders are typically the ones in charge of implementing new policies.
Research suggests people with mental health issues are disproportionately affected by police violence. For example, a study of police shootings in Maine found 42% of shooting victims—and 58% of those who died from their gunshot injuries—had a mental health condition.
How Do Police Feel About Body Cameras?
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University surveyed 27 law enforcement agencies in Sunshine County about attitudes toward body cameras. Most surveyed agencies were not currently using the cameras, and all participants were in leadership positions.distrust of the police, and half reported thinking body cameras would increase the frequency of guilty pleas.
Police officers also had concerns about how body cameras would affect them. Almost 60% said the media might use body camera data to embarrass police, and half expressed concern that maintaining body cameras would take time away from normal duties.
Body Camera Research
Though law enforcement officers thought body cameras would not change police behavior, other research suggests otherwise. A 2015 study of a Florida police department that began using body cameras on half of its officers found the average number of use of force incidents dropped from 3.5 to 1.6 per year after the cameras were implemented. The number of officers receiving citizen complaints for excessive force dropped from 0.26% to 0.09%.
Research shows a majority of the general public also wants officers to wear cameras. The 2015 Policing Perspectives Research Report found 60% of respondents believed the use of body cameras would improve relations between police and citizens.
- Bailey, R. (2015, October 14). Police body cameras reduce violence, says yet another study. Retrieved from https://reason.com/blog/2015/10/14/police-body-cameras-reduce-violence-says
- Barned-Smith, S. (2015, November 20). Public wants police body cameras, study says. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/public-safety/Public-Wants-Police-Body-Cameras-Study-Says.html
- Bouchard, K. (2012, December 9). Across nation, unsettling acceptance when mentally ill in crisis are killed – The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram. Retrieved from http://www.pressherald.com/2012/12/09/shoot-across-nation-a-grim-acceptance-when-mentally-ill-shot-down/
- Study first to show how law enforcement leaders feel about police wearing body cameras. (2015, December 14). Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2015-12-law-leaders-police-body-cameras.html
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