Watching Police for Socially-Desirable Outcomes

Click above to read the 2013 study, Self-awareness to being watched and socially-desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force.

Rialto PD Chief William Farrar & Dr. Barak Ariel, out of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, produced this paper for the Police Foundation. They presented findings at an Evidence-Based Policing Conference.

Of particular interest to Consult Hardesty is the author’s acknowledgement that, “The study was able to expose what happens when the level of certainty of apprehension for professional misconduct was set at 100 percent.”

Findings declare officers who did not use body cameras experienced twice as many police-use-of-force incidents, when compared to shifts where officers wore cameras. All videotaped incidents were cases in which the physical contact was commenced by the member of the public, whereas in 4 out of the 17 cases when officers were ordered not to wear cameras, the officer initiated the physical contact.

“Future explorations of the nexus between deterrence and self-awareness of being observed will therefore have to scrutinize … other levels of certainty of apprehension.”

Three officer complaints were filed during the 12 months of the experiment (02/13/12 to 02/12/13), 24 had been filed the year before. Authors state, “There were not enough complaints to conduct any meaningful analyses.” No evidence was collected from those who filed complaints or those who declined. They were unable to “ascertain the validity” that cameras “modified the behavior of those who interacted with the police.”

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