Police Body Cameras and Police Use of Force
This paper will solely evaluate the issue of police use of force and the development of police body-worn cameras as one of its remedies. Body-worn cameras have become popular in today’s law enforcement agencies to combat police brutality against citizens. Additionally, the agencies view it to promote evidentiary information from various encounters. Police brutality is a common menace to society. In the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, a black man in Missouri experienced conflicting witness accounts. Resultantly, (Say, “In response.)the country’s administration funded body-worn camera programs across 32 states in the US. In 2016, the cameras had become practical in about 47 percent of the country’s law enforcement agencies. However, one of the challenges in the policy is that citizens often request the release of recorded scenarios, especially on high-profile incidents like police shootings. They want to watch themselves and make their conclusions according to their opinions. The policy also faces cost challenges. This report mainly bases its information on desk research, intensely relying on the peer-reviewed journal for the facts it presents. The peer-reviewed journals have conducted surveys, questionnaires, and case studies to collect relevant data about BWCs. (Not Needed) This paper generally concludes that body-worn cameras have become influential in the battle to curb police brutality. Several reports have shown that officers wearing cameras are less violent than those without. The cameras are crucial for providing indisputable evidence and automatically capturing the officers’ actions.
Police Body Cameras and Police Use of Force
In todays’ society, police brutality has become rampant and has called for swift measures to fight it and improve police relations with the public (Fryer, 2020). One of the measures law enforcement agencies have adopted in this fight is deploying body-worn cameras (BWCs) (Henstock & Ariel, 2017). The agencies believe BWCs are a powerful tool to curb police brutality since they provide indisputable evidence from police encounters (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020). Body-worn cameras automatically capture audio and visual encounters (Henstock & Ariel, 2017). Therefore, they can provide information that can help police performance and accountability in the future. In the past and recently, there have been shocking reports of police brutality.
Additionally, most cases involve fatality against people of color (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020).( You need a different citation here. This paper is a comment/critique of a paper that argued no racial differences. These authors critiqued the method/data. So, I would cite a study that had this result.) One example is an encounter in 2014 whereby police officers shot a black man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (Fryer, 2020). The case saw conflicting witness accounts, which could probably make it problematic for law enforcers to create a healthy verdict over it. The paper will focus on analyzing the development of body-worn cameras to determine how they have improved and addressed the issue of police use of force.
Use of Force among Police Officers
Police use of force refers to police officers’ effort to compel compliance from unwilling subjects (Sousa et al., 2018). Therefore, sometimes it becomes necessary for the police to use force. It is acceptable by the law in specific circumstances such as self-defense and when the officers are defending others. However, the issue is tricky since neither two situations nor any two officers (Smith, 2019). However, the amount of force that police officers use is observable through physical and verbal restraint, lethal force, and less deadly force.
Police brutality is a situation whereby police officers violate various human rights. In most cases, police brutality has involved racial abuse, beating, torture, unlawful killing, and misuse of power to control protests (Sousa et al., 2018). Several reports have shown that police brutality has prevailed among individuals and crowds. According to law enforcement agencies, Police brutality is one of the most extreme misconducts among police officers (Smith, 2019). However, unlike police use of force allowed in some situations, police brutality is not acceptable by law enforcement agencies.
Several international laws are set to oversee police actions towards the public. Such laws are present in organizations like the United Nations (Fryer, 2020). They state those police officers should only use force as the last option when they are strictly under threats that could lead to death or severe injury (Sousa et al., 2018). Use of force may also be allowed when all other de-escalation measures are inadequate.
However, laws governing police use of force and brutality are, to some extent, insufficient. Some countries are not having any national laws addressing this issue (Gaub, 2021). For example, in the US, nine states do not have any regulations on police use of lethal force (Sousa et al., 2018). It means that victims of such cases have more significant tasks to seek justice from international laws. Several reports have shown that several victims of police use of force and brutality are innocent and unarmed (Fryer, 2020). It shows that the police officers in the assault cases do it with impunity without considering the international laws. Numerous studies have shown that from 2013 to 2019, about 99 percent of police officers who use excessive force and killings do not face any criminal charges (Gaub, 2021).
Several reports have studied incidents that predict the use of force by the police. Although several studies have shown the use of force against unarmed victims, some have also shown that suspects shot by the police pose an imminent danger to the officers during the shootings (Gaub, 2021). Additionally, research has demonstrated that suspects’ arrest resistance is significant in predicting the use of less-lethal force (Fryer, 2020). In a recent study, military veterans in the Dallas Police department were more likely to engage in shooting scenarios. Combat experienced officers had a three times much higher probability of involving in such a case. Officer level predictors have also prevailed in some studies.
Some studies have looked at the use of force by police and its relationship with police gender. However, these studies have shown inconsistent results, whereby some have shown that female police have lower probabilities of using force (Gaub, 2021). However, some have shown similar results across the police gender. Another significant factor that studies have addressed is police race. Some studies have shown that police race has not been a major factor in determining police use of force since police behavior has appeared similar across their races (Fryer, 2020).
Organizational and ecological correlates of force have also turned into a study subject for researchers. In such studies, police use of force has been closely linked to community characteristics like racial composition, economic inequality, and environmental factors (Gaub, 2021). In several cases, community violence level positively relates to rates of police use of force. As organizational factor is concerned, informal organizational culture and policy are among the leading factors that could guide and control police use of force (Gaub, 2021). On the other hand, unclear and unenforced policies have higher chances of escalating lethal force.
In police specialty units, numerous studies have systematically looked into lethal power by these units. They have reported multiple cases of dog bites that were recorded in K9 units of single agencies (Laming, 2019). They also found 35 to 40 percent and 24 percent of suspected nervousness led to dog bites (Gaub, 2021). Officers assigned to specialty units use almost four times greater force than general police units. Therefore, unit-level is significant in mitigating coercive behavior. Unit assessment policies should also prevail as a remedy.
Police use of force situations happens frequently. Some get displayed in the news, while most of them that occur far too often do not get to the public spotlight (Smith, 2019). Additionally, countless police brutality occasions are not getting national attention, and several are not even reported (Smith, 2019). In 2016, incidents involving police use of force in the United States resulted in 1,093 killings. However, this was a slight improvement among the officers since, in 2015, police officers killed 1,146 victims (Laming, 2019). Studies have shown that cases of police killings have reduced in urban zones and significantly escalated in suburban and rural areas in recent years. In 2020, the first half of the year had more police brutality cases than the second half (Gaub, 2021).
Research in California has shown that police brutality has highly prevailed over the past decade. High-profile shooting has heightened, leading to deaths of civilians at the hands of law enforcement officers (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020). The brutality has occurred towards all races, but black civilians have been affected more in most of those significant cases. The studies have also shown that police officers shoot 250 victims every year, out of which roughly 195 civilians die in California at police hands (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020).
Fifteen percent of police fatal encounters resulted from misunderstandings at the vehicle and pedestrian stops (Fryer, 2020). Some citizens are killed, and some record serious injuries in this situation. Additionally, more than four out of ten victims of gunshots suffer mental health complications later. Other problems with the cases are alcohol-related and substance-related disorders (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020). However, in 80 percent of cases involving gunshot wounds in California, the civilians were armed and posed a significant danger to the police. In other cases that led to serious injuries, 56 percent of the civilians were unarmed (Fryer, 2020).
One of the examples reports has shown in addressing the issue of police brutality against black civilians transpired in Minneapolis city in 2020, where a black man, George Floyd, died in police custody. The 44-year old got arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit 20 dollars bill. His killing was brutal since the policeman had handcuffed him and knelt on his neck for several minutes (Durlauf & Heckman, 2020). Additionally, the killer police did this inhuman action in front of bystanders and refused to listen to their pleas to lift his knee off the victim.
In some cases, police use of force is associated with the task assigned to them and the kind of people they will deal with. Reports have shown that police violence is more prevalent in cases involving arrest resistance and violence from the victims (Fryer, 2020). However, police brutality chances are reduced when dealing with mentally challenged suspects. Force has also been highly prevalent when officers deal with several suspects since they are likely to offer more resistance (Gaub, 2021).
Researchers in US and UK have also shown that cases of police assault by citizens have risen by a 15 percent higher notch when the police are wearing cameras. It may be due to overconfidence by the public that the officers would not use force in such cases (Fryer, 2020). Unfortunately, such cases are among those that drive the police towards using more power towards the public to ensure they accomplish their tasks (Gaub, 2021). Therefore police use of force may come from defending themselves against public assaults.
Department levels have also been a factor affecting police brutality. Different departmental units treat their suspects with varying levels of force (Gaub, 2021). For instance, research has shown that SWAT-certified patrol officers use more power when conducting non-SWAT operations than general patrol officers (Smith, 2019). The officers would also increase the force they use due to inadequate supervision.
The above cases signify that it is essential to perform police reforms to improve the officers’ accountability. Police officers must have healthy relations with the public, which will promote trust among them (Gaub, 2021). Police accountability is also a crucial requirement in society to ensure the proper undertaking of their services. Additionally, it is essential in preventing unnecessary suffering and mortality.
Body-worn Cameras’ Evolution
Since the issue of police use of force had become chronic, law enforcement agencies saw the need to introduce policies to combat this menace ((Adams & Mastracci, 2019). The use of police body-worn cameras came as a priority in this fight. The first generation of modern BWCs got introduced in 2005 in the United Kingdom (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). However, from 2014 to date, these gadgets have seen large-scale implementation in the US and other parts of the world.
The first generation of police body-worn cameras had several challenges. Generally, first-generation cameras were fixed on police bodies using a clip or a magnet. Therefore, the cameras could not firmly hold on to the police bodies (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). In such cases, the cameras were in greater danger of falling off, especially when the police officers were involved in critical situations requiring recording. It means that they could fall off when they were most necessary (Piza, 2021).
One such case was when police officers were involved in a foot pursuit. In such incidents, an officer will focus on chasing their victims. They will have little concern about going back to the camera since it could be essential to prevent suspects from evading arrest than fixing a camera (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). Sometimes, a police officer could also struggle with a suspect resisting arrest. In such cases, loosely fixed cameras could easily fall off (Adams & Mastracci, 2019).
Another challenge that faced the first-generation BWCs was that they only had manual activation. Therefore, police officers had to activate them manually when they got into critical situations. The activation feature was inconsistent since some police officers failed to record crucial incidents (Piza, 2021). Some significant incidents could occur abruptly, giving the officer inadequate time to activate the camera (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). Manual activation could also lead to inconsistency as officers could forget to activate their gadgets.
File storage also prevailed as a significant challenge in the early designs of body-worn cameras. The first-generation cameras could only store the recorded videos internally. Therefore, the gadgets’ storage space could sometimes get full after storing several recorded videos (Piza, 2021). When they got full during police operations, they could fail to record more critical situations or delete some of the already recorded ones. In 2012, West Lafayette Police Department collaborated with graduate school research in the College of Research at Purdue University on a BWCs research. The study showed that the BWC technology was still reasonably archaic (Adams & Mastracci, 2019).
However, as technology evolves, the excellence of body-worn cameras has also improved dramatically. The second generation of gadgets has seen several advancements in various functionalities and design. First, wearing the cameras has improved significantly. BWCs can now be built into helmets and eyeglasses (Piza, 2021). Such wearing is excellent in preventing the BWCs from falling off during foot pursuit and struggles.
By 2017, the second generation BWCS had had already seen most of the essential advancements required. For example, the West Lafayette Police department deployed a state-of-the-art BWC and instituted the policy-based concept, which had embraced automatic recording triggers (Piza, 2021). The automatic triggers became an effective remedy for police officers failing to record essential situations. Therefore, automation has improved the BWCs’ reliability, efficiency, and consistency (Piza, 2021).
Second-generation BWCs are equipped with several automation sensors. For example, the new technology has incorporated built-in accelerometers, which have shown excellence in the devices. The accelerometers can automatically detect when a police officer is running and will start recording automatically (Piza, 2021). Therefore, the cameras will activate automatically during foot pursuits.
Officer down alert and activation is another significant advancement. The feature is crucial, especially in events where the officer is in danger during field operations. It allows the camera to detect and start automatically on occasion when an officer goes down (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). The feature also alerts the nearby officers and sends GPS coordinates of the downed officer to the command center.
More intelligent technology has still developed in the police BWCs. The current generation allows the cameras to activate using computer-aided dispatch (CAD) calls (Adams & Mastracci, 2019). CAD calls automatically start recording when an officer receives the call for service. Action zones are another intelligent feature that helps in the automatic recording. It allows the officers to set certain areas as action zones, and the cameras will start to record audio and video automatically when they enter these areas (Piza, 2021). Some cameras can also detect gunshots and activate recording instantly. Therefore innovative technology has played a core role in developing police body-worn cameras. During the first phase of BWCs deployment, several positive outcomes were seen regarding police use of force. However, as the policy continued, it attracted mixed reactions from the public and some police departments. (Adams & Mastracci, 2019).
As various research projects in addressing the issue of BWCs have mainly shown how vital the cameras are. They have also demonstrated that innovative technology improvements have made the BWCs excellent in their work. Several automation capabilities have enabled police officers to capture videos and audio recordings even in circumstances that could not allow them to activate recording (Smith, 2019).
For example, officers can capture situations such as foot pursuit automatically. It is also proper to conclude that BWC policy has successfully addressed the issue of police use of force. For instance, BWCs have become significant help in the case of police mistreatment of people of color, such as that of George Floyd in 2020. The introduction of cameras has also proved to be a great way to promote police supervision (Laming, 2019). The constant supervision has enabled the conduct of police officers who work better when they are being supervised, which has resultantly promoted their accountability.
However, some of the studies are inconsistent in showing the effect of the BWCs use. For instance, some studies have shown no difference between police use the devices and when they do not (Sousa et al., 2018). However, most studies have proven significant positive changes in police use of force when the cameras are incorporated. Besides, some authors admit that site-selection bias might have inflated their results.
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