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Investigating the prevalence and utility of police body-worn cameras in the George Floyd protests

Janne E. Gaub (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)
Michael White (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Aili Malm (Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Emergency Management, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California, USA)
Seth Watts (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Katharine Leigh Brown (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 11 May 2022

Issue publication date: 22 July 2022

699

Abstract

Purpose

Unlike protests against police brutality in the past (2014 and earlier), police officers responding to First Amendment-protected demonstrations in summer 2020 likely were wearing body-worn cameras(BWCs). This study seeks to understand police perceptions of the effects of BWCs when used in the George Floyd protests.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use survey data from 100 agencies with federally-funded BWCs to assess the prevalence of BWC deployment to George Floyd protests and perceived benefits and limitations of the technology within this unique context.

Findings

About three-quarters of agencies encountered some level of demonstration/protest related to the killing of George Floyd, and the majority of those deployed BWCs during these demonstrations. Respondents indicated evidentiary value of footage was a key reason for doing so, and at least three preconditions for a civilizing effect were present.

Originality/value

Research has documented numerous benefits associated with BWCs, from reductions in use of force and citizen complaints to evidentiary value. However, the extent to which BWC benefits extend to public protests is unclear. The George Floyd protests represent an opportunity to understand the prevalence and usefulness of BWCs in policing public protests.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Additionally, they thank the survey respondents for their time and candor. This research was carried out with funding support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of BJA or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Conflict of interest: This project was completed with support from our partners at CNA. Dr. White has a consulting relationship with compensation from CNA.

Citation

Gaub, J.E., White, M., Malm, A., Watts, S. and Brown, K.L. (2022), "Investigating the prevalence and utility of police body-worn cameras in the George Floyd protests", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 633-647. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-10-2021-0151

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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