Documented studies to unearth the true benefits and effects of using body cameras began being conducted in recent years. Results of the first-ever research study on police officers wearing body cameras was released in February of this year and the findings were dramatic. For one year, 54 officers on the frontline of duty were assigned to either wear or not wear a body camera on their clothes for their full twelve-hour shifts. The groundbreaking study was performed by Force Science News and conducted at the Rialto Police Department in California.
During each of the three years prior to the study being conducted, Rialto PD had approximately 65 use-of-force incidences per year and 24 civilians filed a grievance against officers in the two years prior. During the body camera experiment, use-of-force incidences dropped to 25, only eight of which were recorded by the body cameras. Citizen complaints during the test period dropped 88% to a total of 3 instances.
The research team commented on these findings by stating:
- When individuals are aware that their conduct is being observed they tend to “adhere to social norms” of conduct.
- The psyches of both the officers as well as the suspects is modified by this “self-awareness effect” leading the suspects to control their aggressions and possibly deterring the officers “from reacting with excessive or unnecessary force” since neither party wants to “get caught.”
- It is possible that body cameras may have “force[d]” officers act more tolerant and they may have become more willing “to endure stressful situations” and allow behavior that, without the cameras, they normally would not.
- The study showed a “spillover effect” in that, overall, both types of complaints declined when cameras were used and even when they were not. Researchers speculate this may be related to officers who did not have cameras feeling the need to make a conscious effort to be competitive and match the efforts of their peers whom they perceived as having had an “advantage” by wearing a body camera.
The research team also finalized the large training potential inherent in the use of body cameras. They stated that body camera footage could be used to coach officers on how to conduct themselves under very specific circumstances. This live, situational training resource could, potentially, be incorporated into junior officer training programs and can have a positive effect upon officer/citizen relations in an impactful manner.
Now that lawmakers in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and other states are drafting bills to restrict the footage recorded by police officers’ body cameras from becoming public record, the time may be just right to present body cameras to the public market.
Passionate product developers such as Mr. Davis can capitalize on this opportunity to put power in the hands of consumers. As he prepares to launch and bring to mainstream body camera systems and accessories from his company, Functional MobileWear, Davis predicts that consumers will see that the products he develops make mobile phones more functional and quickly accessible. Davis’ first production run of his Mobile Device Pocket System (MDP) may very well be the first to meet the huge demand for body cameras by allowing such tools to be quickly available both to law enforcement and, for the first time, to the general public as well.
by Bridgette Bryant