A new study in Dallas, TX, is looking to find out whether or not the employment of police body cameras boosts the public’s trust in police officers. For the study, 200 Dallas police officers will wear a Taser Axon Flex body camera and will continue their duties as normal.
It’s not normal protocol to receive a follow-up phone call after dialing 911 or getting pulled over by the police. However, for this study, Dallas residents who come into contact with officers will shortly after receive this type of follow-up customer service inquiry. The questions will be of a more philosophical nature, inquiring the civilian about not only how the officer treated them, but whether or not the interaction in question helped to either improve or hurt their trust in police officers.
“The way we are going about learning about police legitimacy is totally unique,” said Melinda Schlager, director of the Caruth Police Institute, which is conducting the study. “It’s a very esoteric, theoretical concept, but it can be measured in some very practical ways.”
In some regions across the country, police cameras are proving to provide massive benefits. In Richmond County, Virginia, police officers have been donning body cameras for five months now. Despite being “inundated with work,” the feedback from the public has been noticeable.
“Really and truly with body-worn cameras the complaints have started to drop,” said Rollins, who handles complaints in the Internal Affairs Office. “I don’t know whether the deputies are acting better or people are choosing not to (complain because of the cameras).”
“Either way, as more departments adopt body camera usage, it becomes apparent that wearing body cameras in general is a win-win for departments and the public,” said Jubal Ragsdale, President of 10-8 Video LLC, a company that offers both in car and police body cameras. “All across the US and internationally, citizens are demanding more accountability from law enforcement agencies. This includes wanting officers to have video of their citizen encounters. While I support an individual’s privacy when video is taken inside the home, any video in public should be available. This would allow the public to see events from the officer’s point of view.”
Ragsdale also said there are still obstacles preventing some law enforcement agencies from adopting body cameras long term.
“When looking at body cameras, departments need to pay particular attention to storage costs and contracts. Many departments that were early adopters of some popular body cameras quickly found that the storage contracts they adopted were much more expensive than anticipated.”
The Dallas study will take place over the course of six months, monitoring 100 officers with cameras and 100 officers without cameras. The researchers will track the amount of complaints, commendations, and uses of force in all 200 officers.
Citizens will also be included in focus groups to further understand how the technology helps or hinders their feelings of trust.