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Study: Police Body-Cams Reduce Unacceptable Use of Force 368

An anonymous reader writes: Incidents like the Michael Brown case have recently put police body-worn cameras into the public consciousness, but they're not a new idea to criminology experts. In fact, researchers at Cambridge began a study in 2012 using law enforcement in Rialto, California as a test bed. Their results are now in: "The experiment showed that evidence capture is just one output of body-worn video, and the technology is perhaps most effective at actually preventing escalation during police-public interactions: whether that's abusive behavior towards police or unnecessary use-of-force by police." The simple knowledge that both parties are being watched puts a damper on violence. "During the 12-month Rialto experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87% against the previous year's figures." This was enough for the city of Rialto to decide it wants to move forward with body-worn cameras; hopefully the study will encourage other police departments as well.
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Study: Police Body-Cams Reduce Unacceptable Use of Force

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  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:01AM (#48666657) Homepage
    To quote a very stupid cop who was arguing against cameras:

    "People react differently when they know they are being watched".

    What this cop was too stupid to realize was, the response to his comment is:

    YES! THAT'S EXACTLY WHY WE WANT THE CAMERAS.

    • Re: Obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:19AM (#48666763)

      But what will be the reaction of the "activists" when these cameras capture indisputable footage of, say, somebody like Michael Brown launching an unprovoked physical attack against a police officer?

      Will they actually admit that maybe the thug involved wasn't such a "good boy", and that maybe it's incorrect to claim "but he didn't do anything wrong"?

      Will they just repeatedly deny what the footage shows?

      Will they start demanding the removal of these cameras, after the cameras repeatedly capture footage of incidents in which the police acted perfectly reasonably, and some thug did not?

      The response to the convenience store footage in the Brown case may be a good preview of how they'd react. It clearly showed Brown acting very violently, and clearly up to no good. Yet instead of accepting what it so obviously showed, the "activists" came up with all sorts of excuses, denials, and even outright fabrications regarding it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But what will be the reaction of the "activists" when these cameras capture indisputable footage of, say, somebody like Michael Brown launching an unprovoked physical attack against a police officer?

        Relief that they don't have to rely on the testimony of a police officer, but can instead use video evidence that is hopefully reliable.

        The response to the convenience store footage in the Brown case may be a good preview of how they'd react. It clearly showed Brown acting very violently, and clearly up to no good. Yet instead of accepting what it so obviously showed, the "activists" came up with all sorts of excuses, denials, and even outright fabrications regarding it.

        The response was that...there was no reason to release that evidence except to shape public opinion, rather than have people honestly question the conduct of the police officer, who didn't witness any such event, and that even if the Police officer had seen it, that use of a firearm would not have been appropriate.

        Of course, you remember the false X-ray claimed to be showin

        • Here here and amen brother. It is FAR worth than the authoritarian followers like the GP believe.

          My brother (not from US - so this is not just a US problem) wanted to be a cop in his early 20's. He was training every day to make the physical etc. He would have made a great cop. He was a massive guy but quick and could punch like a mule when we trained together. Good temperament but I had never seen him back down from an asshole (or group thereof) in his life.

          He met 3 cops who were on holiday and the obvious
      • Re: Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:31PM (#48667203)

        But what will be the reaction of the "activists" when these cameras capture indisputable footage of, say, somebody like Michael Brown launching an unprovoked physical attack against a police officer?

        They'd probably ask why he tried to apprehend someone twice his size without any backup. Then ask, why after he'd already shot the guy 4 times he had to put 2 more bullets in his head.

        Cops should be able to defend themselves, but they seem to be throwing themselves into needless danger over and over again. He was a moron to try and wrestle with this guy over a pack of cigars. If he got away, so what? Then, I don't think I've ever heard one of these police shootings that didn't involve the cop emptying a 16rnd clip. This isn't a western. That, again, is stupid. How many bystanders had bullets whizzing past them? What if the guys friend then turns on the cop? He's out of ammo! And worst of all, you just shot someone to death over a box of cigars. That's not ok. Maybe we should instal missile launchers in their headlights to? There's a jay walker! Lets nuke the intersection, he might be armed!

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        But what will be the reaction of the "activists" when these cameras capture indisputable footage of, say, somebody like Michael Brown launching an unprovoked physical attack against a police officer?

        Will they actually admit that maybe the thug involved wasn't such a "good boy", and that maybe it's incorrect to claim "but he didn't do anything wrong"?

        Will they just repeatedly deny what the footage shows?

        The activists will be activists.

        HOWEVER, if they repeatedly deny the scenario that the video shows, it dis

      • by zlives ( 2009072 )

        I believe Eric Garner was on tape in a choke hold... wonder what the activists are saying about that.

    • by s.petry ( 762400 )

      Accountability is a good thing, and something severely lacking today. We have enough independent footage to know that events that happen should not, but since the footage is from "independent" sources they are all labelled questionable. A source that can be held with fewer questions, such as the body cameras by cops, would add much to a case like Michael Brown. Even if the camera was not facing Michael Brown at the onset of the encounter, audio could have been used to determine who's story was most accur

      • by memnock ( 466995 )

        Why do you think that cops were more accountable 30 or 40 years ago? Do you think the mindset that cops are above the law only recently developed in police forces?

        • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

          by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:03PM (#48667003) Journal

          Not that they were necessarily "better" but I think the attitudes of police towards the public have indeed changed over the past forty years. Forty years ago there weren't SWAT teams. The cops did not bash down your door, throw in flash bangs and shoot your dog to serve a simple search warrant. They....knocked on the door.

          Did they always lie (well, they have to and there's nothing wrong with that so long as it's not under oath), plant drugs on people, shoot black people? Yeah. But damn if they weren't more polite about it.

          The "us vs them" mentality wasn't so readily apparent. Maybe it was there and we just didn't notice because there weren't cell phone cameras, and they were mainly doing it to black people. Still, I don't remember cops 15 years ago driving APCs, in body armor, all black, and referring to citizens as "civilians." Now I hear that routinely. If we're civilians...what exactly are you? And what exactly is our relationship?

        • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

          by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:51PM (#48667327)

          Why do you think that cops were more accountable 30 or 40 years ago?

          Before an answer, I will say that a large part of that trust came from being ignorant to the way the world actually works. I was young, delusional, and believed that authorities would never lie. Outside of Nixon and Kissinger of course. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, and looking back I don't believe they were as accountable as I wanted to believe.. but there are several differences between today and then in attitude and training of law enforcement.

          Back then, police were not held in a higher regard than the public. Respected, sure.. but a cop's actions were measured by their risk to the public. For example, the commando style raids we see today are a very new phenomenon. 30-40 years ago this would not have happened unless someone's life was in eminent danger. Today we have commandos chucking grenades into houses to serve warrants. We have commando style raids for non-violent crimes like drug dealing. Cops shooting family pets because they claim "I was afraid of the dog". Those things simply did not happen back then. Police were expected to respect the public as much as the public respected them.

          There are many other differences in training and actions found to be acceptable then and now. A cop shooting someone today can simply use the excuse "I thought I was in danger", even when it's a kid playing army with his buddies. That would have had an officer suspended without pay 40 years ago, and back then there were many more kids out playing army/cops & robbers, etc.... Toy guns were much more common, hell we brought them to school to play at recess.

          Lastly hiring practices are much different then and now. Then, there was more worry about public perception of officers. Cops were expected to outsmart the bad guys, not kick their asses. Today agencies want the ass kickers, bad asses, and bullies. "Gangs" are not something new, so that excuse does not work as the justification.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      And in cases where officers do show appropriate restraint, these cameras will prove exculpatory. Police officers should want these. If Darren Wilson was innocent, such a camera would have prevented local riots and a national headache.

    • "People react differently when they know they are being watched".

      Yes, we are quantum beings.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:02AM (#48666661)

    The simple knowledge that both parties are being watched puts a damper on violence. "During the 12-month Rialto experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87% against the previous year's figures."

    Those lower percentages scare me because it's clear proof that a majority of police officers abuse their powers.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      Huh? How the hell do you get that?

      • During their test, use of force by officers fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87%. Anything above 50% is a majority. If they can still do their job properly by using less force and get 87% less complains, that means they were abusing their powers before the cameras. I don't know how to explain that to you in more clear terms.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          You can't really be that stupid. 'Incidences of use of force' is NOT the same thing as 'number of officers'. You do know that, right?

        • But if they only reduced their violence output by 60%, why the 90% fall in reports? Does that not imply, using your overly simplistic logic, that these cameras simultaneously stopped 30% of the claims of brutality, implying these were madeup to begin with.
          • But if they only reduced their violence output by 60%, why the 90% fall in reports?

            The police were more likely to act as we expect them too, and the criminals were less likely to make false claims they knew would be futile. I'd be suspicious if there was any other result.

    • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:11AM (#48666709) Homepage
      You could argue that exact opposite with the same data set. Maybe it proves that putting the criminals in the spot light reduced their violence by 60%, and reduced false "police brutality" claims by 90%
      • Maybe it proves that putting the criminals in the spot light reduced their violence by 60%, and reduced false "police brutality" claims by 90%

        If this is true then it still makes perfect sense to use the body cameras. There are far fewer allegations of police brutality to deal with--whether the reduction comes from an actual decrease in police brutality or from a reduction in false claims of police brutality or an increase of cooperation of the people in-front of the officer--who cares? It's all good to me.

        In my mind, the only true downside of the body cameras is the expense of dealing with collection and storage of thousands upon thousands of h

        • Storage/video capture are both pretty cheap nowadays. The only real issue I would worry about is too many non-police watching and commenting on too much of the footage. The public should know everything that police do in the line of duty, that said they are not qualified to quibble over the details. I am sure, with years of experience on the job, and training that has been evolving for thousands of years, there are numerous things the police are trained to do that to some amateur who knows nothing about pol
          • I agree with this, but I'm not particularly concerned. I do not think that the general public would be viewing the videos like a live feed or much at all. I think we already have precedent for how this would work--dash cams in police cars. That system seems to work fine and I think it would be the same here.

      • This is still a good thing - it eliminates the false reports and shows that the officers are doing their job correctly as well as making the criminals (or suspects) less likely to do something that is harmful to the officers because they know there is footage of the event.

    • "Clear proof" it is not. Try again.
  • If the police involved don't want to be recorded, they shut off the cameras or rip the antennas off the car. Not hypothetical - happens all the time. There are few consequences.

    I'd predict the citizens will modify their behavior far more than the police will. Citizens can't shut off the camera - or turn the disabled camera back on. People will still be beaten or railroaded or extorted for cash if a cop decides it should be so.

    • But citizens can have their own redundant cameras streaming to the cloud. They can get smart enough to fedex cash so the cops won't get it. All of this will happen. It's a race, as always.

      • And phones have a back door command, not yet activated, that will be provided to authorities: Camera Use Forbidden. Apple tried to patent the idea of crowd camera control (maybe succeeded); I'd assume it would be easy to implement. And since so many standalone cameras are radio-enabled now, part of the Internet of Things, those could be remotely shut off as well.

        Or, they, being police, could have the authority to jam frequencies used by wifi/Bluetooth/cellular devices. Touch a button on their camera, and ev

    • they shut off the cameras or rip the antennas off the car. Not hypothetical - happens all the time.

      Do you have some evidence of this claim?

      This study indicates otherwise. Rather than showing an increase in vehicle damage, there was an observed decrease in reports of inappropriate behavior.

      • Better to have cameras than not; maybee...... juries can be played by selective use of cams, excluding other cam footage, and plain old laying a trap for the unwary citizen.

        You asked: I read the news. Google for you:

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/ka... [forbes.com]
        "But it goes both ways; video – or the lack of it – can also damn officers. Two on the Daytona Beach force lost their jobs after a video mysteriously blanked out in the middle of an encounter with a woman who allegedly hid a bag of cocaine in her mout

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:10AM (#48666701)

    Yes. Cops behave within the limits of the law when they're watched and many can't be trusted when they're NOT watched. I don't think we really needed a study for that.

    How nice if this would turn in to legislation. Of course, for that we'd need a congress that had focus, a spine and would actually be bothered to consider the will of the people.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Accountability is paramount in keeping any powerful system in place.

    The police would increase their political power by using their unions to make deals with prosecutors, secure reassignments, and avoid real repercussion for improper use of that power. This political obfuscation and inherent force is what allows systemic abuse to happen.

    The solution is not to fight back with violence against the inherent force, but to shine a light on the political obfuscation. The protests are best where they ask for accoun

  • by Bueller_007 ( 535588 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @11:40AM (#48666875)

    Yes, if only the cop had a camera during the Michael Brown stop, then I suppose his killing would have looked more like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Don't forget, the cops in that case knew they were being filmed. Here's another case where cops disgracefully killed someone when they knew they were on film. He had a weapon, but was at such a distance that he posed no threat at all ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] ) And another one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Any time that cops are in a store, they know they're being filmed on security cameras. Here's another "heroic" action by the cops, committing what any sane human would consider to be murder while they know that they are being filmed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    And of course don't expect some of the footage not to go "missing" ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com] ), and don't expect the footage to even be released ( http://www.citylab.com/crime/2... [citylab.com] ). And even if it goes to a grand jury, don't expect the District Attorney not to knowingly put a liar on the stand and throw the case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Obviously this is all anecdotal and not "scientific" compared with the study in the summary, but it should be clear that this problem of police violence is not going to be completely solved until the cultures of "shoot first and ask questions later" and "protect each other" within law enforcement are changed.

    • ...

      Obviously this is all anecdotal and not "scientific" compared with the study in the summary, but it should be clear that this problem of police violence is not going to be completely solved until the cultures of "shoot first and ask questions later" and "protect each other" within law enforcement are changed.

      The study does not claim that cameras eliminate the problem. To quote the summary:

      use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59%.

      That's a good thing, even if it's not perfect. And it provides

  • Sure, cameras cut down on the use of force by the police.

    It also cuts down on the incidence rate of perpetrators claiming they got roughed up by the police in an attempt to get out of their charges.

  • Study: Police Body-Cams Reduce Unacceptable Use of Force

    Where has the "unacceptable" word come from, which is peppered throughout the article? Isn't it enough to simply report, without resorting to subjective qualifications such as this, that:

    Data from the Rialto experiment shows police officers are deterred [...] from using force in general

  • Fox News anchors have already gone on air claiming that body cameras are insulting to police.

  • a surprising number of murders of citizens by police happen when the cameras are not turned on.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:05PM (#48667011) Journal
    and reports against officers dropped by 87%

    While most people on here are focusing on the police portion, the civilian portion is more damning. It shows the amount of crap police have to put up with by people who think they'll file a brutality report so they can not be held responsible for their actions.

    I don't have the link, but some on here will remember the video of the woman who was in the back of a police car yelling and screaming for the police to stop hitting her without realizing a camera was recording the whole thing. When she claimed police brutality, the video was shown and the charges were thrown out.

    While there is certainly some police abuse going on, there are much more claims by people of police abuse where none exists. Just like dashboard cameras, it works both ways so when people claim they weren't doing anything when they were shot, the camera will show them reaching for their gun (see the most recent shooting in Missouri though we don't have video of the incident).
    • How many of the "eye witnesses" in the Brown case weren't even at the scene until after it happened? No surprise that 87% of claims against police go away when there's a recording of what actually happened.

      And who down-modded the parent post? It was at 2, now back to 1. People who do that should be banned from moderating

  • That's great, but how much do they reduce mass surveillance?
  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:57PM (#48667367) Homepage
    Here’s the problem with cops wearing cams. Any information gathered by a pubic servants during the course of their duty is subject to disclosure. Given that some information is exempt from public requests, (personal information about victims, pending cases, anything considered private..etc), personal information will, and needs to be redacted. If available, this will generate a never ending stream of public information requests to municipalities demanding this newly created video. The video will need to be edited for redaction prior to release. Some cities/states have maximum time requirement laws in which information must be released. This will necessitate the hiring of dozens of video editors to supply edited videos to fulfill RFI’s. (request for information). I work closely with several cities. It’s amazing how many pointless fishing expeditions currently squander millions of tax payer dollars requesting every single email, document, text message, voice mail – pretty much everything everyone does – when some old guy gets a bug up his butt that the city didn’t treat some right of way in front of his property correctly or some one wants to be a political candidate. Now release video of police walking around with video cameras and there will be a non stop stream of ambulance chasers reviewing every second of available video for potential legal mongering. This will place addition burdens on public legal resources. Prepare for costs, taxes, and laws to protect public workers to skyrocket. ,, nothing is free
    • You can't be free without a cost. If lawyers are going to continue to ruin society, we need to curb them... but given how democracy is failing those issues are really sideshow to the real problems. Cutting down on misinformation and ignorance are one of the few things left that can be done to support democracy.

  • by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @04:02PM (#48668723)
    Why are police officers armed with lethal rounds in the first place? Less lethal "rubber bullets", actually rubber coated steel spheres, should be more than sufficient for all non-SWAT scenarios. While they aren't death or injury free, the mortality rates are vastly lower than lethal munitions while still having considerable stopping power.

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