Not just another piece of equipment: an analysis for police body-worn camera policy decisions
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In the United States, law enforcement agencies are rapidly deploying body-worn cameras (BWCs) to increase organizational transparency and foster positive community relations. Proponents of the technology see BWCs as a tool to ensure police legitimacy and eliminate abusive conduct. Preliminary evidence identifies several benefits of using BWCs, such as: reduced citizen complaints, increased cooperation, and lower civil liability. However, emerging evidence suggests that the devices may be achieving the intended goals but with unintended consequences. BWC use may inadvertently increase use of force incidents and reduce the time that the police spend on de-escalating a situation. This thesis employs qualitative research methodology to examine how BWCs affect the ambiguous nature of police decision-making, as well as the effects of BWC use on the public, thereby investigating solutions for the frayed police-public relationship. By analyzing current data available on BWCs, examining information on human decision-making including heuristics, and completing a comparative analysis of a similar police technology--the vehicle dashboard camera--the thesis finds that BWC use can have different and changing impacts on police behavior, suggesting that variables related to human factors alter the dynamics of BWC use. The thesis provides recommendations that cover independent agency BWC evaluations, organizational training, limits on discretionary officer recording, and the practical application of automated camera systems.
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