Body Cameras Will Not Improve Police Behavior!

Research finds police body-worn cameras fall short of expectations

“While much of the research is mixed, its conclusion counters some of the benefits body cameras were expected to bring at a time when more and more departments are investing in the technology.”

Let’s look at the fact American police have been using police vehicle cameras for over three decades. It would be unwise to believe that body cameras would be anymore effective.

What I have learned over many years is that it is foolish to expect a technology to improve police behavior. Period.

If anyone is truly interested in improving the behavior of their police (police chiefs or community leaders) the answer will be found in improving the selection, training, and leadership of our nation’s police officers.

Here’s some recent thinking on body cameras:

“For years, body worn cameras were lauded as the solution to strengthening police accountability and improving transparency, while serving as a tool to repair fractured relationships between law enforcement and certain communities.

“But, according to a recently released study from the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, body cameras may not be the panacea the nation had hoped.

“According to the report, researchers reviewed 70 empirical studies on body cameras’ effects, ranging in focus from their influence on officer and citizen behavior to influences on law enforcement agencies as a whole. While much of the research is mixed, its conclusion counters some of the benefits body cameras were expected to bring at a time when more and more departments are investing in the technology.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

18 Comments

  1. In reviewing most of the research on body worn cameras I would point out that the underlying assumption, especially in the Washington DC study, is that body worn cameras are a tool to catch officers doing something wrong, i.e., a tool of accountability. This underlying premise is based on an anti-police bias so when we judge BYCs to be ineffective this means ineffective in catching officers doing something wrong. The bias causes researchers to ignore the FACT that officers seldom do things wrong, from an objective standpoint.

    Confirmation bias is a profound problem today, we only see what we want to see and we ignore that which does not conform to our bias. Police officers, in my own research here in Dubuque, who have experience with BWCs overwhelmingly support their use because a BWC captures events from the officers point of view. Although not perfect, this is seldom a point of view that is captured by those intent on proclaiming that we have a “police problem.” The police are mere scapegoats for societal issues that are not only more complex than we think…they are more complex than we can think.

    Allow me to present a premise here David. I would be pleased to entertain a thoughtful argument.
    We here in the United States have the BEST criminal justice system, including the police, yet devised by mankind. What say you?

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    1. Never in disagreement. We may differ in vision. I see our nation’s police capable of achieving an even higher standard — one of world class. One might have some argument about who is best from some of our European allies. In the meantime, I imagine we both will press on? How’s the PCR book coming along?

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      1. The book is in print and doing quite well thanks. I just heard from one of our tech colleges who will be adopting it into their curriculum. I believe that you would find much in the text that you agree with, especially the sections on emotional intelligence and possibly the chapter on the perspectives of African Americans concerning the police. The real meaning of Community Oriented Policing and how it plays out in the real world…not so much.

        Here is the link: http://www.policecommunityrelations.com/index.asp

        I miss our discussions!

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  2. No, we don’t have the best criminal justice system and that includes the police. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our police training is substandard compared to countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, and we don’t take white collar crime being committed by wealthy people and business leaders seriously; otherwise, the wealthy people and business people would be filling our jails and prisons.

    Funny how police cameras were favor by the police so they would not be accuse of corruption and brutality; however, now they find out they don’t want it when the ordinary citizens are filming them and do illegal means to put a stop to it.

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    1. Thanks Gunther, I appreciate your point-of-view.
      You are exactly correct that mass incarceration and white collar crime are problems with our system however, no where else in the world, especially Europe, do they hold fast to the concept that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence is the hallmark of our criminal justice system, a system that holds the rights of individuals above the control of crime. Under the civil law legal tradition of most European countries the priority is crime control, the rights of individuals are largely ignored (This is a collectivist point-of-view). Then, take a close look at how criminal justice works in socialist countries and the Islamic world, downright primitive.

      In most European countries, France, Italy, Spain, etc. They assume that the accused is, in fact, guilty. As a practical matter it is the system, i.e., the police, that has the burden of demonstrating innocence. How comfortable would you be with that??

      Can you imagine what problems such as mass incarceration would be like if we were to abandon our fundamental principles for a crime control focus (European model) where the rights of individuals are of secondary or lesser importance??

      My premise remains. I don’t claim our system is perfect and without problems…only that it is the best when compared to ALL of the other systems out there.

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      1. Yeah well what about in Central and South America, the justice system is primitive let alone none existence and has completely broken down when you look at all the people who have been kidnap and/or killed by the military/police without a trial due to decades of right-wing juntas back by the US government. You tried to live under a system like that. In Guatemala, they have so many murders, that the police have actually stopped trying to solve them let alone investigate them.

        In places like France, Greece, England, and Italy when the police go too far, the people rise up and don’t hesitate to take on the cops and assault them. Furthermore, the police can’t asks the government to declare martial law and send in the military to restore order unlike in the USA. You also have in places like Sweden and Norway, you have where political parties who tried to hold the police accountable for their actions and they do not care if they don’t get financial and political support from the police when it comes time for getting votes when running for office. You can’t say about that in this country.

        We don’t have the need for the European model with regard to having problems of mass incarceration since we have done it ourselves without using it thanks to President Nixon’s war on crime and war on drugs. We have forfeiture laws being used and abused by the police. In addition, every police chief, sheriff, district attorney, and judge is competing against other police chiefs, sheriffs, judges, and district attorneys in trying to prove who is the biggest, badest person when it comes to cracking down on crime, and it hasn’t made the society any safer let alone putting street gangs, organized crime, and corrupt corporations out of business. If one of those officials started to be lenient, he/she would be accused of being soft on crime and would be voted out of office. It is all about their personal and professional reputation and their egos that has nothing to do with justice for all.

        Moreover, we are criminalizing street protests, criminalizing the homeless people and those with mental health issues all because our political leaders are in the pockets of the corporations and the wealthy people and have no interest in serving American society and making it a better place to live. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies continue to spy on political dissent in this country with no legal justification: theintercept.com/2019/10/22/terrorism-fbi-political-dissent/ and have not learned their lessons from it, refused to learn from it and not being held accountable for it. You also have the police and the DA withhold evidence that could have prevent an innocent person from going to prison or being released from prison. Governor Ryan of Illinois was so disgusted when he found out how many people on death row were innocent due to the work of the ACLU and the Innocent Project, that he had put a freeze on carrying out the death penalty. You have too many cops manufacturing evidence plus lying in a court of law and never being punished for it and many judges and district attorneys knew all about it and look the other way. If a civilian had lied in court, they would have the book thrown at them. The Qualified immunity for cops, prosecutorial immunity for district attorneys and the Judicial immunity for judges need to be scale back and or change If enough cops, district attorneys and judges were sent to prison for what they had done, the rest of them would quit or they would change their attitudes and would start acting in the interest of justice.

        Due to the sending of jobs overseas by American corporations plus tax breaks and subsidies for wealthy people and corporations, the city, county and state governments are starving for revenues so they have to turn to the police to provide the revenue and did the police chiefs, sheriffs and state police chiefs protest en masse about it? The answer is no. Look at Ferguson, Missouri where the city officials, the district attorneys, the judges and the police had a nice little organized crime like racket where they went after the Afro-Americans to provide the revenue. It was finally exposed when the US Department of Justice was investigating the Ferguson riots and discover it; yet, how many of those officials went to prison for it. They should have been charged under RICO since they were acting like the mafia. Do you want to live under a system like that where you are constantly in debt because the police and the court system treat you like at cash cow? That certainly would have not been tolerated in Europe.

        In addition, we have the largest private prison system in the world where you can only make huge profits by imprisoning people. Do you want to live under a system like that? People in Europe know about good and bad policing because they have seen it, done it, and live through it. We have no right to tell them about the faults and flaws in their police and court systems. We had every chance to reform the court system and the police since the end of World War II but threw it away without any hesitation, no remorse about it and are actually proud of it. Come back and tell me about mass incarceration by the Europeans using their model when the Europeans actually really put more of their people in prison than we do. We need to learn from their political, social, economic, police, justice and prison systems than they need to learn from us.

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  3. @solarp2016

    Presumption of Innocence is a joke when you look at how labor union activists got railroaded by the court system because the judges were in the pocket of the wealthy people and corporations. In addition, our public defender system is understaffed, underfunded and underpay while corporations and wealthy people have the best lawyers that money can buy. Some of these union activists never got their day in court because the police arrested them and then took them to some out of the way spot and murdered them. Were those cops ever brought to trial and were the labor union activists had a presumptuous of innocence? Heck No.

    The federal court system is now packed with right-wing conservatives judges who never serve a day in court and they got the jobs thanks to Mitch McConnell aided and abetted by the Federalist society of violating the unwritten procedures of picking these federal judges and having them being confirmed by the Senate. These judges don’t care about the presumption of innocence and will make decisions that will benefit the corporations and wealthy people for the next 2 to 3 generations. You and I are going to be living under that kind of court system for a long, long time.

    Presumption of innocence is a joke because in the last several years when people are shot or beaten by the police, the cops do on a public relations smear campaign against the people they shot or beaten up while crying out that they are entitled to a presumption of innocence. In addition, the cops these days have more rights when they get accuse of something compared to the ordinary folks because thanks to their unions they get certain rights that is included in their contracts and the cities and counties can’t do a think about it because the politicians bow down to the police demands in order to get their votes.

    Thanks to 9/11 and the Patriot Act, the presumption of innocence and various parts of the US Constitution have been taken away. If you are on a no fly list and/or the police go to the FISA court to get a warrantless search, you have no legal rights to confront your accusers and to find out what evidence or lack of evidence that they have on you or why you were on the radar in the first place. We are living under that kind of court system for the last 20 years.

    Mass incarceration? Yet we had our own of mass incarceration by various names called Slavery, the Palmer raids, sharecropping, contracting out prison labor, private prison systems, draconian laws on drugs, misdemeanors, homeless and mentally ill people, street protests, etc, the internment of Japanese Americans, and of the Native Americans. In addition, many of the labor union activists during the Palmer raids were immigrants who were deported without any kind of deportation hearing. So much for this presumption of innocence and having the best court system in the world. Europeans know all about mass incarnation. The last ones were the Soviet Gulags, Nazis concentration camps, and Yugoslavia death camps due the breakup of that country which led to various wars in that country which led to the creation of those camps.

    You also have individuals like the Koch brothers and right wing think tanks like ALEC trying to pack the courts at the city, county and state levels. Where is your presumption of innocence and having the best court system in the world where an ordinary citizen has no chance of getting his/her grievances being redressed in his/her own local community? In addition, you have the corporations denying people their rights to the courts through the use of arbitration laws where the laws are written in their favor and the arbitration judges are always ruling in favor of the corporations You and I are living in that rigged court system for the last several decades. As far as I am concerned, we don’t have the best court system in the world compare to some of the other countries when corporations and wealthy people controlled it and have been controlling it ever since the day the country got its independence. We exchange the rigged King Justice system for plutocracy/oligarchy justice system.

    From what I heard, in Germany, cops have to turn over all the evidence to the other side and if they don’t do it, they get stripped of their badges and get a one to two-year sentenance.

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  4. solarp2016

    If we have the best court system, explain why hardly any of our judges and DAs come from the public defender’s office and instead come from the DA’s office and/or high price corporate law firms? In addition, many judges in some of the states at the county level don’t have law degrees at all and yet they are dealing with people’s lives: https://trofire.com/2019/10/28/medical-debt-collectors-working-with-judges-to-incarcerate-poor-people/

    Here is a story about the DA not doing a thing about a cop:

    https://trofire.com/2019/11/20/coach-resource-officer-caught-filming-students-defense-contractors-cashed-in-on-immigration-policy/

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  5. @solarp2016

    Here is an article from ProPublica about the presumption of the innocence court system in South Carolina that the people are living under: https://www.propublica.org/article/these-judges-can-have-less-training-than-barbers-but-still-decide-thousands-of-cases-each-year.

    Here are a couple of stories about the lack of qualifications for being a judge: https://trofire.com/2019/11/26/unqualified-judge-lands-job-with-justice-department/

    https://trofire.com/2019/10/28/medical-debt-collectors-working-with-judges-to-incarcerate-poor-people/

    You tell me now that we have the best justice system in the world and that we have the presumption of innocence in it?

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  6. @solarp2016

    Here is the link about the Federalist Society deciding who will be nominated to the federal courts: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecreationproject/2019/11/legal-federalist-society-stole-federal-courts-conquered-washington-dc-imperiled-nation/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Best+of+Patheos&utm_content=57

    Yeah, we got the best corrupt justice system among the most developed nations in the world that money can buy. So much for the presumption of innocence.

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  7. @solarp2016

    Here are some links about the American court system not being the best in the world:

    https://www.propublica.org/article/they-loan-you-money-then-they-get-a-warrant-for-your-arrest?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

    https://nypost.com/2014/02/23/film-details-teens-struggles-in-state-detention-in-payoff-scandal/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_for_cash_scandal

    There is a book also titled Kids for Cash about this scandal. In that book, one of those judges when visiting the schools told the kids that if any kid appears before him in court on such things like doing drugs, the kid will go immediately to jail. Where was the presumption of innocence? How come the DAs office, the police officers, and the public defender office didn’t do anything about those judges violating the kids’ rights?

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