ASU In the News

ASU criminology professor analyzes police camera studies

Following the alleged shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old man by a police officer in Missouri, attention is focusing on how to prevent such episodes. One option being tested in police departments across the country is the use of uniform-mounted video cameras.

The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine talked to ASU criminology professor Michael White, who has analyzed the five studies done to date on the use of body-mounted cameras by police departments. One study is from the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (with the Mesa Police Department), and another is from the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety (with the Phoenix Police Department).

"It could be as little as 10 years until we see most police wearing these," White told the Wall Street Journal.

White compares the use of uniform-mounted cameras to what happened with the use of Taser stun guns after they were first introduced in the 1990s. They were adopted for use after an initial period of testing and, nowadays, most police agencies use Taser stun guns.

In the city of Rialto, California, the number of officer-use-of-force cases dropped 60 percent after officers started wearing cameras. Citizen complaints against police also declined substantially, by 88 percent.

But there is resistance to adopting the cameras by some in law enforcement who view the devices as inhibiting the ability to do their job. White cautions that the use of uniform-mounted cameras may not necessarily be effective in defusing flash points.

White told Time magazine that even though the body of evidence isn't large enough yet to know the true effects of body-worn cameras by police agencies, the early results are promising. He thinks it may have made a difference in establishing the facts of the officer involved in the shooting in Ferguson.

“With body-worn cameras, we would have a permanent video record that could be viewed immediately that would tell everybody what happened," White said.

So far, White has not come across any similar encounters by police agencies using the cameras.

“But I couldn’t help but think, 'What would’ve happened if the officer was wearing a body-worn camera?'” added White.

Article Source: Wall Street Journal
Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions