New Research First to Study Police Opinion on Body Cameras

Police car lightsAs 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.

Overall, 50% supported the use of body cameras, and a third thought body cameras would improve police behavior when interacting with citizens. Nearly 50% believed the cameras would factor into officers’ decision to use force, and 50% reported body cameras would improve citizen behavior during law enforcement encounters. Two-thirds said the push for body cameras results from public 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.

References:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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/
  4. 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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  • hank

    hank

    December 17th, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    You have to think that police would want the body cameras which would generally show that they are only using force if they are being provoked. There are always going to be some bad cops out there but I have a feeling that most of them are great and they put their lives in danger every time that they go to work. I think that most of them want us to be able to see that decisions have to be made in a split second and that they often don’t have time to think, simply react.

  • Sadie

    Sadie

    December 18th, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    It feels like such an invasion, like people do not trust that they are doing a good job

  • erik

    erik

    December 21st, 2015 at 4:17 PM

    The more violence that is perpetuated against innocent people by the police then I think that the demand is going to grow even greater for them to always have a body camera on them. If they are not doing anything wrong then they should not mind the public having this kind of access into their actions.

  • Parker

    Parker

    December 23rd, 2015 at 5:34 AM

    are there any concerns that these cameras could ever impede an officer from doing his job?

  • Lou

    Lou

    December 25th, 2015 at 4:50 AM

    I guess that it makes them more accountable to the citizens that they are sworn to protect and that is a good thing

  • Rob

    Rob

    December 26th, 2015 at 1:43 PM

    For the most part it sounds like there is very little negative thought about the use of the cameras.
    It will definitely keep you honest!
    And it will also keep a criminal from being able to make false allegations against you if the proof is right there on the tape.

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