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Body Cameras: What Can We Learn From Their Lenses?

10 Nov 2015 by Susie Steckner

Law enforcement agencies are under increasing scrutiny by the public over high-profile incidents that call into question police officers' use of force with suspects. These incidents, captured on video by bystanders, have saturated traditional media outlets and social media platforms, and sparked protests across the country. The law enforcement's response?

Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) are garnering more attention nationwide. While there are a limited number of studies around the country on BWCs, and no definitive answers on whether the cameras have positive or negative impacts, agencies and communities are moving ahead with the technology to boost transparency.

"That's one of the immediate benefits of this technology," says Michael White, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University (ASU) who is overseeing a new BWC research study at ASU. "A police chief holds a press conference to say to the media, to say to the community, ‘We've got nothing to hide. We realize that other departments are having problems and as a demonstration of what our officers do, we're adopting this technology.' That can be a powerful olive branch for a police chief."

The study follows two police departments — one in Tempe, Arizona, and the other in Spokane, Washington — as they begin using BWCs in their patrol units. Researchers are studying what impacts those cameras have on police and citizen behaviors. They are also talking directly with citizens who are filmed about their interactions with officers, a first for studies of this kind.

In Technically, the digital magazine powered by Insight, the cover feature."Coming Into Focus: New Study Examines Impacts of Emerging Body Camera Technology," explores the lessons the study hopes to uncover from the cameras' lenses.

Plus read all the the details on the national research, BWC market and challenges ahead, including a video interview with professor White.

This article originally appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of Technically digital magazine. Read the latest issue here.