Investigating the prevalence and utility of police body-worn cameras in the George Floyd protests
Policing: An International Journal
Article publication date: 11 May 2022
Issue publication date: 22 July 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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