A Big Test of Police Body Cameras Defies Expectationsby Amanda Ripley OCT. 20, 2017Usually, we behave better when we know we’re being watched. According to decades of research, the presence of other people, cameras or even just a picture of eyes seems to nudge us toward civility: We become more likely to give to charity, for example, and less likely to speed, steal or take more than our fair share of candy.“Public uprising?” Personally, I called it “undocumented shopping.”
But what happens when the cameras are on the chests of police officers? The results of the largest, most rigorous study of police body cameras in the United States came out Friday morning, and they are surprising both police officers and researchers.For seven months, just over a thousand Washington, D.C., police officers were randomly assigned cameras — and another thousand were not. Researchers tracked use-of-force incidents, civilian complaints, charging decisions and other outcomes to see if the cameras changed behavior. But on every metric, the effects were too small to be statistically significant. Officers with cameras used force and faced civilian complaints at about the same rates as officers without cameras.“These results suggest we should recalibrate our expectations” of cameras’ ability to make a “large-scale behavioral change in policing, particularly in contexts similar to Washington, D.C.,” concluded the study, which was led by David Yokum at the Lab @ DC, a team of scientists embedded in D.C. government, and Anita Ravishankar at D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (M.P.D.).After the public uprising in response to the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.,
advocates and many police officials turned to cameras as a way to reduce violent encounters and build trust. By 2015, 95 percent of large police departments reported they were using body cameras or had committed to doing so in the near future, according to a national survey. …“This is the most important empirical study on the impact of police body-worn cameras to date,” said Harlan Yu from Upturn, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit consulting company that studies how technology affects social issues. It was not directly involved in the research. “The results call into question whether police departments should be adopting body-worn cameras, given their high cost.”We’re a pretty rich country and information technology gets cheaper and cheaper, so cost is not a big deal.
Why didn’t the cameras change behavior?Because there really isn’t a Sinister White Male Conspiracy to brutalize angelically innocent black bodies?It’s mostly just a racist hate-filled conspiracy theory promoted by Obama, Hillary, the press, and the NGOs to get out the vote for the Democratic Party and unite the Democrats’ Coalition of the Fringes.In reality, most of the notorious incidents involve cops making poor decisions in high adrenaline situations.Consider the two much publicized police killing in the Twin Cities recently: the Latino affirmative action hire cop shot Philando Castile (which got Obama so worked up that his denunciation of racism helped set off the subsequent Dallas and Baton Rouge terrorist massacres of cops that helped sink Hillary’s campaign) and the Somali affirmative action hire cop shooting the Australian yoga lady. It’s not like both cops went to work in the morning intending to kill somebody, they just screwed up in an instant.What can we do about that? Better hiring (e.g., less affirmative action), better training, better equipment?But the media aren’t much interested in boring things like that.What the Establishment wants instead are Great White Defendants like Jeronimo Yanez and Mohamed Noor, except it wants them to look like Haven Monahan.[Comment at Unz.com]