Disturbing Study Links Body Cams to INCREASE in Fatal Police Shootings


By Claire Bernish

Police body-worn cameras have taken center stage in the effort to promote accountability for controversial uses of lethal and nonlethal force — and while controversy over their misuse and malfunction rages, a startling new study suggests body cams, themselves, only increase the likelihood officers will employ deadly force.

Min Seok-Pang and Paul A. Pavlou of Temple University’s Fox School of Business, who research “the impact of information technology on organizations,” according to the Wall Street Journal, found that, in essence, calls to mandate police use of body cams could be counter-productive to reducing officer violence.

According to the researchers:

Surprisingly, we found that the use of wearable video cameras is associated with a 3.64% increase in shooting-deaths of civilians by police. We explain that video recordings collected during a violent encounter with a civilian can be used in favor of a police officer as evidence that justifies the shooting. Aware of this evidence, the officer may become less reluctant to engage in the use of deadly force.

Additionally, they found body cams associated with a greater increase in fatal shootings of African Americans and Hispanics than of Asians and whites.

No such increase in deadly force occurred in 2013 and 2014 — the years the devices first came into use — because, as they posit, “It could take a while for police officers to realize how helpful evidence from body cameras could be in justifying the lethal use of force.”

Interestingly, though the study found an increase in lethal use of force associated with body cams, police use of smartphones and onboard laptops to obtain intelligence like crime statistics and suspect information had the opposite effect. As they explain, “the use of smartphones by officers for intelligence access is related to 2.72% fewer deadly shootings.”

To analyze the effect of technology on police use of force, researchers compiled civilian deaths by police from the Washington Post, which conservatively recorded 986 deaths in 2015, and those from killedbypolice.net for 2013 and 2014, as well as statistics on police use of technology from the Law Enforcement Management and Administration Survey published by the Department of Justice.

Their findings of the correlation of increased police deadly force with body camera use — though counter-intuitive — makes perfect sense on closer inspection.

On May 1, 2015, the DOJ announced $20 million would be allotted to expedite the use of police body-worn cameras — part of President Obama’s three-year, $75 million plan to outfit 50,000 officers with the technology.

“This body-worn camera pilot program is a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with tools, support, and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the time. “Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

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Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise O’Donnell added, “Body-worn camera technology is a valuable tool for improving police-citizen relationships.”

Though the researchers didn’t extend their theory further, it could easily be surmised the continued lack of accountability for lethal police force, even in questionable circumstances captured by body cam video has worked to embolden police.

Rather than body cameras’ intended chilling effect on the lethal use of force, when officers around the country see their colleagues act with near impunity, the accountability factor of such cameras is wholly negated.

Prosecutors often refuse to bring charges against officers — even in hotly contentious instances of lethal force — and when an indictment is levied, juries and judges frequently fail to find the officer guilty.

If accountability does not increase in tandem with video evidence, it isn’t shocking such footage doesn’t cause reluctance in the use of deadly force.

Further, as Mike BlueHair — co-founder of police accountability activist organization Film the Police Portland — explained in an interview with The Free Thought Project, various cities have implemented restrictive laws concerning the public release of body cam and dash cam footage. In North Carolina, for example, even police violence victims and their family members must obtain a court order to view such video — and even then, the courts aren’t obligated to comply. Other localities mandate the editing of video to obscure officers’ faces or other identifying information, which would be contextually vital in understanding the decision to employ lethal force.

Study authors say roughly one-quarter of departments in the U.S. now use body cams — but no national standards dictate their use. Though the Taser Corporation has developed a system in which a body cam is activated under certain conditions — such as an officer drawing a lethal or nonlethal weapon from its holster — the majority of departments using body cameras have policies regarding when officers must turn them on. This human factor — considering officers can unintentionally or purposely ‘forget’ to power on their cameras — has proven highly flawed.

In order for the DOJ’s goal of improving civilian-police relations through the use of body-worn cameras to be effective, all of these factors must be addressed — most particularly, holding police legally and personally accountable for their actions. Until that time, body cams will increasingly be a vehicle for police to commit violence against the public with near impunity.

Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.

Also Read:
Don’t Fall for the Police Body Camera Deception
5 Reasons Police Body Cameras Are a Terrible Idea
Who Are Police Dash Cams Really Protecting?

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10 Comments on "Disturbing Study Links Body Cams to INCREASE in Fatal Police Shootings"

  1. Aim your weapon at me pig and you will die. Fu ckers do not have the right to raise their weapons on us as they do.

  2. Our experience at ‘neighborhood watch’ is that police want neighbors to spy on neighbors and turn them into police. We also learned that officers turn body cams on and off and edit footage to suit their whims and needs, Not exactly a confidence builder, but hey that’s what happens when you live in a police state.

    • Cops encouraging spying on neighbors? Shades of Janet Napolitano’s “See something say something” rat on your neighbor video message looping on screens in some Walmart trial locations. Good thing it went over like a lead balloon. There was the Terrorism Liaison Officer program training garbage collectors and telephone repair folks to report suspicious behavior. > Stasi resurrection…

      • I only wish the encouraged and cultivated snitch environment could be as easily dismissed as you’ve indicated, but unfortunately we are following the path of Germany during hitlers rise. Study their past and know our future. It’s already taking place.

        Nine times out of ten, the police respond to a report by some busybody who is afraid of their shadow and doesn’t like the neighbors.

        Soon, this dangerous and very misplaced power will be used to even old scores. Want to get even? Just invent, and report a suspicion about the neighbor you don’t like. The police are happy to respond without a shred of proof.

        All of the wrong people in charge will only escalate our downward spiral.

        • I agree, it’s ugly and this time more insidious with the seduction of technology (everything “smart” and more). The only *good* news I can think of is it seems as though there are limits given China shelved a new program in 2012 whereby citizens were incentivized to spy and report on each other getting a percentage of the fines, typically with the infraction being cited on the spot. The program created so much infighting and animosity that it had to be abandoned. Nevertheless, the Chinese Social Credit Score system is a nightmare and currently being set up in the US (via FICO scoring), Europe, Russia, and other nations through a handful of companies. I don’t see a way around the techno straight jackets once they are in place, that’s what worries me the most. I believe we are being distracted 24/7 so as not see this incremental “totalitarian tip-toe” locking us out with the tapping of a few keys.

  3. This is complete & utter bullshit propaganda/ spin- doc deception / meme generated from some neocon NGO …passing this off as Alternative News…

    • BINGO.

      That is taking place much more than Americans realize. Reason dictates, any organization that has the power and money to completely corrupt all of the mainstream media certainly has the means to comrpomise the so called alternative media.

      Question everything.

  4. They have drawn down on me and my friend. I had just moved to a new place. It was night, the back porch light was on and the kids were playing in the yard. We were moving a dog house from the back of my truck to the back yard and had to climb over he fence.
    The cops stopped and threw their doors open and pulled their guns out and the both of us dropped the dog house. Thanks pigs for not shooting, ever so grateful.

  5. Ridiculous study, ridiculous article. i.e. “Though the researchers didn’t extend their theory further, it could easily be surmised ..” SURMISED? Seriously? No need to surmise…just read about the police department of Rialto CA. SIXTY% reduction is deadly force situations since body cams introduced.
    Dam those pesky facts…..

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