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Several events that have involved police brutality and misconduct have sparked the conversation over body worn cameras. Body worn cameras are small devices often worn on an officer’s chest or head with a microphone to capture sound and video. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). These devices are being considered as a solution to all the negative police interacts with the public and vice versa. There have been several research studies done to find out the impact that body worn cameras have on policing and community relations. The impact of these devices have several benefits for both the police and the public. In the past several years, many police departments have adopted body worn cameras in hopes to improve the quality of policing within their communities.
Many community stakeholders and criminal justice leaders have suggested placing body worn cameras on police officers to improve the civility of police-citizen encounters. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). These devices have a substantial potential to benefit the police services in many ways. Advocates of the body worn cameras state that they provide a plethora of benefits including increased transparency and accountability, reduction in officer use of force, citizen complaints and crime, officer and citizen compliance, police legitimacy, better evidence collection, training benefits and assistance in court processes. (Headley, Guerette, and Shariati, 2017).
Body worn cameras can bring positive changes to all police services. One benefit of body worn cameras is how it is beneficial in police training. The footage from the cameras can be used in scenario based training, as well as way to evaluate the performance of officers who have just joined the force. This device can be used as a great educational tool. Body worn cameras increase accountability and transparency among police officers and the community. (Hedberg, Katz and Choate, 2016). They can have a civilizing effect on both officers and the public during encounters. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016). When video’s from specific incidents are able to be played back, it shows evidence of how the incident occurred and the actions that were taken by the officer. When police officers are held accountable for their actions, it improves police legitimacy. Police officers might increase their performance for reasons related to increased police accountability and organizational justice. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016).
Ultimately, their performance can improve by being more respectful, friendly, fair, and transparent. Body worn cameras can deter police officers from behaving inappropriately or over using their powers. In order to improve police legitimacy, body worn cameras can also be used to punish officers who engage in misconduct. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016). With increased performance by the police, the community will look at the police as being more legitimate through mechanisms such as distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016). The public supports police legitimacy, therefore, the public will be more cooperative, trust the police, and comply when in contact. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016). Body worn cameras encourage officers to follow protocol and behave appropriately. When police legitimacy is increased it can have a significant effect in controlling crime rates and holding offenders responsible for their actions.
It has also been suggested that citizens may alter their behaviour when they know they are being recorded and their behaviour can later be reviewed. It is said that citizens will be more cooperative and less likely to be aggressive during an encounter where a body worn camera is present. (Hedberg, Katz, and Choate, 2016). When a member of the public notices they are being recorded by a body worn camera, they may restrain their behaviour that otherwise would have been escalated into a potentially dangerous conflict with the police. Body worn cameras can ultimately resolve and address issues regarding community trust and police accountability. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, Alper, 2017). These cameras can encourage positive and cooperative behaviour by police officer and members of the public.
Body worn cameras can give police officers the confidence that some of them are missing; due to having video and sound evidence of altercations with the public. The use of body worn cameras decreases false statements made against the police. In most cases, when trying to examine the impacts of body worn cameras, citizen complaints and use of force are primarily focused on. (Headley, Guerette, and Shariati, 2017). When these cameras are present, police officers typically go towards less invasive methods of dealing with difficult encounters with the public, due to clear video and sound evidence. Body worn cameras also reduce the amount of complaints filed against police officers, due to the increase in transparency. Another benefit is the reduction of use of force from officers. This civilizing effect that has been previously mentioned, has been connected to decreasing officer use of force, as well as resistance during arrest. (McClure, Lawrence, and Malm, 2017). Therefore, this results in a de-escalation of force between both police officers and the offender. The complaint and use of force reductions associated with placing body worn cameras on police officers may be particularily important for improving police-community relations. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). Another potential benefit with the use of body worn cameras is the increase in police productivity. This includes significant increases in police citations and arrests being made. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017).
The last benefit being discussed is the increase in the quality of evidence that can be used in court. Video recordings from body worn cameras have been used in court to improve evidence for arrest and prosecution, to disprove and substantiate allegations made against the police and to help expedite the resolution of complaints. (McClure, Lawrence and Malm, 2017). Body worn cameras provide clear evidence for every altercation that police officers encounter; as well as substantial savings in money and time.
There have been several research studies done to see if body worn cameras have positive impact policing and the public. A study done by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department concluded that officers wearing body worn cameras generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). These police officers also made several more arrests and issued more citations while wearing a body worn camera. It is noted that the percentage of officers that generated at least one complaint decreased by 16.5 percent. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). Las Vegas Police department also concluded that these cameras can save police services anywhere from $4.1 million to $4.4 million annually. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017).
In a research study done by the Rialto Police Department in California in 2012, their results showed a significant decrease in police use of force by 50 percent. Another study showed citizen complaints made against the department dropped by 88 percent, due to the presence of body worn cameras. (Headley, Guerette, Shariati, 2017). In regards to citizen complains the numbers went from 28 complaints down to three and the number of times use of force was made dropped from 61 times down to 25 incidents. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). The last study made by this police service was the decline is resisting arrests, which decreased by 65.4 percent. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). In 2006, the Cornwall Police Department created a program to test out the impacts of body worn cameras. Their results also concluded that there was a significant reduction in complaints against police officers. (Headley, Guerette, Shariati, 2017). The last study that was researched for this paper came from Hallandale Beach Police Department. Their results showed that the use of body worn cameras resulted in less instrusive methods to resolve incidents, while officers continued to be active rather than abstaining from community contact. (Headley, Guerette, Shariati, 2017). Throughout these few research studies, it is evident the positive impact body worn cameras have on policing and the community.
Overall, the use of body worn cameras have increasing benefits to both police officer and community members. These cameras are perceived to bring a civilizing effect by improving the behaviour of both police officers and citizens. (Braga, Coldren, Sousa, Rodriguez, and Alper, 2017). These devices are being considered an excellent solution to negative interactions with police officer and community members. Body worn cameras have a significant amount of benefits such as, training, police/public accountability and transparency, police legitimacy, reduction in complains and use of force, savings in money and time, as well as evidence for court. A considerable amount of pilot tests and research studies are continuously being conducts to pin point the numerous amounts of benefits with the use of body worn cameras today.
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