Study: Public sees benefit in police use of body-worn cameras

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

University of West Florida professor Dr. Matthew Crow and assistant professor Dr. Jamie Snyder, along with Florida Atlantic University professors Drs. Vaughn Crichlow and John Smykla, completed the second part of their research on police body-worn cameras, or BWCs.

During that phase of the research, Crow gauged how the public perceives police BWC use.

“We found overall support for BWCs among the general public,” Crow said. “What surprised us was we found some differences in the reasons or the factors that affected that support.”

The study, “Community Perceptions of Police Body-Worn Cameras: The Impact of Views on Fairness, Fear, Performance, and Privacy,” is published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said BWC use would improve police officer behavior and 70 percent said BWCs would improve citizen behavior in encounters with the police, according to the citizen survey completed during the study.

Dr. Matthew Crow

Dr. Matthew Crow

“Given the sort of negative light in which police have been presented over the past several years following the Ferguson shooting and subsequent shootings after that, we really expected that those who had more negative views of the police and police performance would see greater benefit to the implementation of body worn cameras,” Crow said. “What we actually found was citizens who had more positive views of the police – who thought the police were doing a good job and treated people fairly – those were the people who actually had the most support for body-worn cameras.”

The opposite was true for those who hold a negative view of law enforcement, according to Crow.

Dr. Jamie Snyder

Dr. Jamie Snyder

“The people that had lower perceptions of the police in general were less likely to say that BWCs would improve police behavior and citizen behavior and police legitimacy,” Crow said.

The researchers also found that those with high levels of concern about crime were less inclined to see a benefit in BWC use.

“People who perceived or had greater fear of crime thought the police were not doing as good of a job and therefore perceived less benefit of BWCs,” Crow said.

The researchers have started a second citizen survey to compare new results with the previous citizen survey.

In 2015, the team published a study of law enforcement leadership’s perceptions of body cam use in their work. For more information about the UWF Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, visit uwf.edu/justice.

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