ASU In the News

Criminology professors shed light on police camera use

ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice professor Michael White was interviewed by several major national and international news organizations for his expertise on the use of police uniform-mounted video cameras.

White, who is the associate director of the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, examined current studies of police video camera use for the National Institute of Justice.

He was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC News, the Guardian, the International Business Times, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News and NPR's On the Media. He also talked to public radio host Madeleine Brand for her talk show "Press Play with Madeleine Brand" that airs on KCRW in Los Angeles.

The interviews came after President Obama said he would request $75 million from Congress to buy 50,000 body-worn video cameras for police departments nationwide, saying they would help improve relations between police and the communities they serve. The announcement came after a jury declined to charge a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the death of a black teenager.

A few of the stories, including those published in New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, explored the consequences of what happens when officers fail to use the cameras deployed by police agencies.

"When it comes to enforcing the policies, the implications for legitimacy are going to be pretty profound,” White told the New York Times. “If you have a police encounter that results in a citizen’s death, and it was supposed to be recorded and it wasn’t, you can imagine what the citizens’ reaction would be.”

White has noted that in the studies involving officers using video cameras in Rialto, California; Phoenix and Mesa, use of force and citizen complaints have declined. In many interviews, White has cautioned that video cameras may not be the end-all that some advocates expect. But he thinks they can help educate the public about what cops face in real life.

“So much of what a line officer does in big city and urban policing occurs away from the police vehicle,” White told the Washington Post. “The potential is there to educate the public on the realities of police work.”

Criminology professor Charles Katz has been studying the use of video cameras by Phoenix police the past few years. He was interviewed by Newsweek magazine about his research. Katz is the director of the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

In the story, he acknowledged that police in Ferguson have lost legitimacy and that video cameras "are a reasonable mechanism to use to increase the amount of transparency in this type of government service that allows people to increase their faith in what’s going on, because fairness is achieved through transparency.”

Newsweek noted one of Katz's findings in his study on the impact of video cameras by Phoenix PD. He found that overall complaints against officers wearing cameras declined. But when complaints were filed against officers, the police department was more likely to not discipline officers or confirm they acted appropriately.

“The community expects that if there’s a camera there, they’re going to be found that they were acting out of policy and there’s an issue there," Katz told Newsweek. "We’re finding just the opposite."

Article Source: New York Times
Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions