Measuring Procedural Justice Policy Adherence During Use of Force Events: The Body-Worn Camera as a Performance Monitoring Tool

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(9) 938 –959
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211021894
Measuring Procedural Justice
Policy Adherence During
Use of Force Events: The
Body-Worn Camera as a
Performance Monitoring Tool
Victoria A. Sytsma1, Eric L. Piza2,
Vijay F. Chillar3, and Leigh S. Grossman3
This study capitalizes on a successful researcher–practitioner partnership to conduct
a systematic social observation (SSO) of police body-worn camera (BWC) footage in
Newark, NJ. To demonstrate the utility of BWCs as performance monitoring tools,
we measure officer adherence to procedural justice standards throughout use of force
events as mandated in the Newark Police Division’s updated policies pursuant to an
ongoing federal consent decree. Overall, a slim majority of use of force events are
procedurally just. However, results indicate several instances of policy noncompliance.
Results are discussed, and policy recommendations related to procedural justice policy
violations and BWCs for performance monitoring are provided.
performance monitoring, use of force, body-worn camera, procedural justice,
systematic social observation
Although the central focus of body-worn camera (BWC) research has primarily been
summative in nature (Lum et al., 2020), researchers have explored connections
between BWC use and indicators of procedural justice (e.g., McClure et al., 2017;
1Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2City University of New York, USA
3Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, USA
Corresponding Author:
Victoria A. Sytsma, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, D431 Mackintosh-Cory Hall, Kingston,
Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada.
1021894CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211021894Criminal Justice Policy ReviewSytsma et al.
Sytsma et al. 939
McCluskey et al., 2019). In addition, Makin et al. (2020) demonstrate that BWC foot-
age enables researchers to contextualize outcomes of police–citizen encounters and
other social events of interest. Thus, BWCs offer utility for performance monitoring to
assess adherence to various policing policies, including policies around procedural
justice. Providing a description of such utility constitutes a useful information product
for police departments seeking to reimagine performance management.
As such, we leverage the research benefits of BWC footage to conduct a systematic
social observation (SSO) of police use of force events in Newark, NJ. In May 2011,
the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division opened an investigation into the
Newark Police Division (NPD). The investigation found an unconstitutional pattern or
practice by the NPD in its use of physical force (U.S. Department of Justice Civil
Rights Division, 2014). In place of litigation, the city of Newark entered into a consent
decree with the Department of Justice. The consent decree required NPD to deploy
BWCs and update policies. Updated policies compel officers to engage in a range of
activities falling within a procedural justice framework during interactions with civil-
ians. This study, an outgrowth of an applied partnership between the research team and
the NPD, uses BWCs as a performance monitoring tool to measure police officer
adherence to these updated policies.
Review of Relevant Literature
BWCs, Procedural Justice, and NPD Policies
Research on the effect of BWCs has developed at a much more rapid pace than most
(if not all) other police technologies (Lum et al., 2015; Piza, 2018). Lum and col-
leagues (2020) conducted a meta-analysis measuring the effect of BWCs on police
officer and citizen behavior as reported through 30 experiments and quasi-experi-
ments. Results of the meta-analysis indicate that BWCs can reduce citizen com-
plaints against police officers. Although the overall results did not find any changes
in officer use of force, moderator analyses found that BWCs are more likely to
reduce use of force when agencies highly restrict officers’ discretion pertaining to
camera activation.
There is a small, but growing body of research exploring connections between
BWCs and procedural justice (e.g., McClure et al., 2017; McCluskey et al., 2019).
Procedural justice generally refers to the “perceived fairness of the procedures involved
in decision-making and implementation, and the treatment people receive from the
authority” (Murphy et al., 2008, p. 139). With that said, scholars have emphasized a
distinction between perceptions of fairness and actual officer actions—the latter of
which is much more easily articulated in policing policies, more amenable to direct
observation by a third party, and less influenced by the personal biases of the targets
(Braga et al., 2014; McCluskey et al., 2019). Officer actions that adhere to a proce-
dural justice framework include providing the public with explanations of police poli-
cies and practices, listening to citizen concerns, responding to citizen concerns, and
treating community members with respect and dignity (G. Wood et al., 2020).

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