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Two ‘rigorous’ studies determine that body cameras have no impact on use of force incidents or citizen complaints

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A study performed with the cooperation Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department has determined that body cameras have no markable impact on use of force incidents or citizen complaints.

With findings raising concerns as to whether the expensive item of technology is worth the cost in the wake of new politics and high-profile shootings, the study -which ran from June 2015 to December 2016- seems to suggest that nothing really changes for citizen or public servant.

“We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras,” Metropolitan Police Department Anita Ravishankar told NPR.

Chief of Police Peter Newsham was equally insightful into the findings, claiming that proper training, standards of behavior and the fact that his officers “were doing the right thing in the first place”  is what makes the difference, not the body camera.

“I think we’re surprised by the result. I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior,” said Newsham. “There was no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all.”

As for the study? Arizona State University researcher Michael White -who did a similar study for departments in Arizona and Washington state- praised both the research diligence and Metro PD.

“This is a very methodologically rigorous study. It is very well done. And that’s not a small issue, because there have been many studies of body-worn cameras that are not rigorous,” he said.

This is, in part, allegedly due to the very high standards DC officers are held to.

“They’re hiring the right people; they’ve got good training; they’ve got good supervision; they’ve got good accountability mechanisms in place,” White says. “When you have a department in that kind of state, I don’t think you’re going to see large reductions in use of force and complaints, because you don’t need to. There is no large number of excessive uses of force that need to be eliminated.”

According to NPR, the study now begs the inevitable question of whether or not body cameras are worth the cost- especially to cash-strapped departments in the heartland.

“I think a big part of the answer to that question is going to come from what the police department and the community want to accomplish with the rollout of body-worn cameras,” he said.

For Chief Newsham, the camera serves a useful purpose either way- offering both evidence and a chest-high view of what officers go through every day.

“I think it’s really important for legitimacy for the police department,” says Newsham, “when we say something to be able to back it up with a real-world view that others can see.”


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1 COMMENT

  1. What about when you don’t have those kinds of standards in hiring and training? We have seen footage of police officers abusing there powers, Now I am on the police side and believe that most cases steam from a citizen looking to cause trouble and it goes down hill from there. I have always showed an officer the upmost respect and never never had a problem. Most of the cases where there is a problem is where some one is challenging the officer from there it goes down hill fast, I have always said if you disagree with the officer then maybe address that in court not on the side of the road, However we have seen a few and I do only mean a few videos where the officer was 100% in the wrong. What would be the answer to the few and far in between cases where the body cam help the citizen ? I guess my point is , many times the cam helps prove the office is in the RIGHT, so maybe it is best to have them to stop undue law suits, and the few bad apples to get rid of them. Believe me there is no right answer to this question. For we do want our freedoms yet to have our safety too. Sometimes the 2 ideals clashes. I have seen video that scare the mess out of me of what the officer did or is doing. I also know that out of the millions of police/citizens interactions there are only a few hundred a year that would be less then 1% that ends badly, but if you happen to be that 1% then that would mean the world to you. I do believe part of the problem is all these budgets being cut, it has had undue influence on the training that is needed for law enforcement. Another problem , I believe a law enforcement class should be taught in High school. the reason why is the law has become very complex. Maybe to complex. But having a basic course in high school just might teach people a little about rights vs dealing with a police officer on the side of the road.

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