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The Impact of Police Video Recordings on Policing Strategies

Abstract This paper explores the impact video recordings have on policing strategies. Improved police legitimacy, professionalism, transparency, innovation and crime reduction efficiency were seen with body worn (BWC) and in-car camera policies.
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  Running head: THE IMPACT OF POLICE VIDEO RECORDINGS ON POLICING STRATEGIES.   1 The Impact of Police Video Recordings on Policing Strategies Jason G. Potts In Fulfillment of a Capstone Requirement University of California, Irvine Criminology, Law & Society 2015 Author Note Jason G. Potts, Master of Advanced Study, Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine  THE IMPACT OF POLICE VIDEO RECORDINGS ON POLICING STRATEGIES   1 Abstract This paper explores the impact video recordings have on policing strategies. Improved police legitimacy, professionalism, transparency, innovation and crime reduction efficiency were seen with body worn (BWC) and in-car camera policies. Privacy and mistrust were concerns for both  police and the public. Closed circuit television (CCTV) assisted with crime reduction when coupled with human effort; however, controverting data revealed it only displaced crime. License plate readers (LPR) exponentially assisted in investigations. However, despite the  perceived benefits, policies must be considered with clear goals that consistently consider the holistic human experience. Police video recordings have documented limitations and consequences that criminal justice administrators should consider as technology in the 21st century catches up with community mandates. The research examined BWC projects at Rialto, Vallejo, Phoenix and Mesa Police Departments. For instance, the data in the Rialto Police Department body-camera one year study revealed that use of force complaints dropped by 59% and citizen complaints by 88% compared to control samples. In addition, the effectiveness of CCTV and LPR’S were examined in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Wichita and Newark. In all of the studies - the human experience was an important factor in the effectiveness of video recordings of policing strategies. Without clear and direct policies, and if the police were given the latitude to activate, the data showed that they typically would not activate BWC from the outset of a citizen contact. Keywords: police body-worn cameras, police in-car cameras, discretionary versus mandatory activation  THE IMPACT OF POLICE VIDEO RECORDINGS ON POLICING STRATEGIES   2 I. INTRODUCTION Because of the increasingly panoptical world we live in, on-duty police are now routinely recorded (Farrar and Ariel, 2014). These recordings are not a cause for concern until police are called on to use force. Fortunately, police use of force is still a relatively uncommon event (IACP, 2012). Incidents of force captured on video can be polarizing, even if justified and within policy (COPS, 2014). Nonetheless, video recordings are not a panacea toward better relations between the police and the community, but they are valuable. These video recordings support increased police legitimacy, professionalism, transparency, and innovation along with crime reduction. However, they must be accomplished with policies and goals consistently and deliberately applied that consider the human experience. Video recordings memorialize events  but do they capture what occurred? Feelings of exacerbation and societal disconnects toward police use of force are evident  by events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York, and marked by the mass protests that followed. There is arguably not a more prominent covert recording of excessive force by police than the Rodney King incident that occurred in 1991. The reaction to the riots that followed, or the 2009 incident in Oakland, California involving Oscar Grant accidentally shot by Officer Johannes Mehserle, all reveal the police and some segments of society have tremendous work to bridge the gaps between fact and fiction. Tragic errors occasionally result when training does not address the occasional incidents of intense police stress. For example, Officer Mehserle accidentally shot Grant when Mehserle believed he was reaching for his TASER. Officers subjected to extreme stress not only have their decision-making ability affected, but their ability to accurately recall and perceive (Lewinsky, 2014). Video recordings are here to stay, and technology will continue to advance, but there are  THE IMPACT OF POLICE VIDEO RECORDINGS ON POLICING STRATEGIES   3 inherent limitations. They are not a solution for all our woes, as they fail to consider the total human experience. The expectation is that body, and in-car cameras will provide a more accurate and transparent account while creating a civilizing and more professional effect for both citizens and police. Yet, as humans, we process, perceive, interpret, and plainly see events much differently than a camera. Cameras produce details that are "recorded portrayals of events from the myopic viewpoint" of a 2-D lens - not subjected to stress (Blake and Geis, 2014; Lewinsky, 2014). Hyper stress and fear create auditory exclusion and "inattention blindness" during life-and-death incidents. As a result, memory and recall are significantly impaired (Blake and Geis, 2014; Lewinsky, 2014). Because the police will perceive these incidents much differently than the camera, an additional concern is that police will be judged liars after the video depicts a different version - even slightly. Cameras create more work in the form of end-of-shift downloads, technological glitches, report review and unreasonable Public Records Act and evidence discovery requests for support staff (COPS, 2014). As a result, they are often not supported by a cynical and distrustful police culture averse to change (Gilmartin, 2002). The decisions of judges and grand juries in some cases contribute to the public's  polarization and view of an injustice done. Especially true when they seem to give police use of force an unwarranted benefit of the doubt. For example, in the landmark case - Graham v. Connor, the police officer was judged to have not used excessive force. In that case, the  petitioner had a medical reaction, but police believed he was resisting, which resulted in multiple injuries at the hands of police. Despite the use of force, the Supreme Court Justices ruled the  behavior of the police reasonable. Based on the Fourth Amendment objective reasonableness standard, which compared the action of an involved officer with similar training and experience and without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight (Ross, 2002)? However, risk managers and city  THE IMPACT OF POLICE VIDEO RECORDINGS ON POLICING STRATEGIES   4 attorneys send the opposite message of culpability for police when monetary settlements become settled out of court for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The proliferation of video recordings and media sensationalism has partly contributed to unsupported scrutiny of police (Blum, 2002). This examination occasionally leads to resistance  by the police in the form of de-policing (Cooper, 2003; Goodman and Baker, 2015). Police push  back is evident in Oakland where quality of life crimes, i.e., open-air drug dealing and street level prostitution have increased and gone unenforced. Proactive enforcement arrests are down significantly, partly due to federal monitoring and the erosion of police discretion and trust via restrictive policies and mandatory body camera activation for every citizen contact (Bulwa, 2012). There is research that documents the benefits of video recordings on police. Benefits included self-awareness, crime reduction and increased professionalism (Ariel, Farrar & Sutherland, 2014; COPS, 2014; White, 2013; Ramirez, 2014). Of course, video recordings assist the police. For example, the Boston Marathon bombers were identified via closed circuit television (CCTV) video recording. License plate readers (LPR) have provided investigators with a technologically advanced tool that has been used exponentially to assist in criminal investigations. Internally generated administrative investigations also benefit, which was apparent when Mehserle's defense enhanced cell phone recordings. The video-recordings ostensibly proved he did not intentionally execute Oscar Grant, but manipulated his thumb, consistent with one deploying a TASER (Rains, 2012). Body and in-car cameras are often used to exonerate officers accused of false complaints. Research in two different studies - Mesa, Arizona and Rialto, California documented a significant lessening of use of force incidents and citizen complaints. These studies seemed to show that they occurred without push back by
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