Police Body-Worn Cameras: Development of the Perceived Intensity of Monitoring Scale

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
CJR846219 386..405 Article
Criminal Justice Review
2019, Vol. 44(3) 386-405
Police Body-Worn Cameras:
ª 2019 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
Development of the Perceived
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819846219
Intensity of Monitoring Scale
Ian Adams1 and Sharon Mastracci1
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are the latest and perhaps most tangible answer to complex social
questions regarding the use of force, state legitimacy, and the proper role of police in a liberal
democracy. How do officers experience heightened monitoring? This article pursues two objectives via
two studies. In the first study, we establish a valid and reliable scale to measure police officer perceptions
of the risks posed to them by the recording and distribution of BWC footage, conceptualized as Per-
ceived Intensity of Monitoring (PIM). Based on a survey of 617 police officers, we evaluate an 11-item
questionnaire and assess internal consistency and construct validity, perform exploratory factor anal-
ysis, and derive a PIM Scale composed of three factors measuring officer perceptions of discretion,
disapproval, and distribution effects. In the second study, we evaluate the PIM Scale’s ability to predict
officer emotional exhaustion, discriminating between BWC and non-BWC equipped officers. This study
contributes to evolving work in BWC research by developing a useful measure for police administrators
and practitioners charged with making decisions related to BWC implementation and policy. Further,
the PIM Scale is applicable across professions other than policing, as surveillant workplace monitoring
and technologies of accountability continue to expand to other contexts.
body-worn cameras, PIM scale, electronic performance monitoring, burnout, police, scale
Perhaps the most visible technological answer to contemporary questions surrounding police use of
force and public oversight is the body-worn camera (BWC). Like most police reforms, rapid
introduction of BWCs into American policing has occurred without much input from rank-and-
file officers (Bayley, 2008). Limited scholarship on officer attitudes toward BWCs exists, and this
area remains one in which scholars continue to call for more research (Kyle & White, 2017). The
Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created in response to protests in Ferguson, MO,
1 Department of Political Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ian Adams, Department of Political Science, University of Utah, 260 South Central Campus Drive, Suite 3345, Salt Lake City,
UT 84112, USA.
Email: ian.adams@utah.edu

Adams and Mastracci
that spread throughout the country, provided $75 million in federal grants for police departments to
purchase BWCs in 2015 (Edwards, 2015). Police BWCs are intended to increase transparency in
policing, decrease police use of force, and decrease the number of citizen complaints filed against
While there are still no uniform national standards, BWC rollout in the United States has grown
from a few testing units in 2014 to a multibillion dollar industry. Governing magazine estimates that
fully 95% of large U.S. police departments have had, or are planning, full BWC implementation
(Maciag, 2016). Adoption has far outpaced analysis as researchers have only recently begun to
explore the intentional and unintentional effects of this new technology (Lum, Koper, Merola,
Scherer, & Reioux, 2015; Lum, Stoltz, Koper, & Scherer, 2019). Overall, results from published
research on BWC outcomes are mixed, and none have examined officer perceptions of heightened
The paper proceeds in five sections. The first section provides a background on BWC policy,
leading to contemporary academic and practitioner disagreements regarding the symbolic, beha-
vioral, and informational consequences (Stoughton, 2017) of evolving BWC policy and use. The
second section situates BWCs in the broader literature on electronic performance monitoring. The
third section describes Study 1, in which the construction of the Perceived Intensity of Monitoring
(PIM) Scale is described. The fourth section describes Study 2, in which we investigate the rela-
tionship between PIM and burnout using structural equation modeling. The fifth and final section
assesses the implications of our findings for BWC research specifically, and criminal justice more
broadly, and identifies avenues for future research.
Study Motivation
To date, the research foci of the BWC literature have been on questions of police legitimacy, through
the frame of police use of force and external complaints (Lum, Koper, Merola, Scherer, & Reioux,
2015; Lum, Stoltz, Koper, & Scherer, 2019; White, Gaub, & Todak, 2017). While it is fair to
characterize the modest body of literature as having established promising results for the ability
of BWCs to deliver on reduced use of force and complaints, the evidence remains equivocal. The
present study follows previous work that situated the effects of wearing BWCs on officers them-
selves (Adams & Mastracci, 2018) as an important current in the stream of BWC research.
Police officers equipped with BWCs are not only surveilled by their employer. Given the chance
that BWC footage may be distributed across public channels, officers are also monitored by their
departments, the judicial system, and the public at large. To date, the literature is largely silent on the
individual-level consequences for officers whose actions are broadcast across television and social
media. Transparency may benefit the public but it carries potential consequences of exposure, not
just for officers, but also for those with whom they interact (Adams & Mastracci, 2017). An
exemplar of this perception is found in one veteran Chicago officer who reveals that he does not
fear injury or death on the job, but rather the threat of being portrayed as an “evil person” in media
coverage (Martinez, 2018), and his “family and friends have to deal with me being put on the news”
(p. 4). A close reading of this officer’s statement reveals concerns about the intensity of BWCs are
along two separate yet related dimensions. First, others’ judgments of his discretionary, split-second
decision-making; and second, ongoing public reaction after distribution of the resulting footage
(Martinez, 2018, p. 5):
We are all camera’d up. We are all mic’d up. We have cameras in the car, on our person. I mean how
much more, how much more do you want to put on top of us having to make that split-second decision? I
mean it weighs. It weighs heavy.

Criminal Justice Review 44(3)
We investigate officer perceptions of the intensity of BWC surveillance; perceptions of those
equipped with BWCs as well as those without. From ongoing and prior research (Adams & Mas-
tracci, 2018), a multifaceted concern over the effects of BWCs has emerged: Concerns about others’
judgments of their exercise of discretion, concerns about public disapproval, and the extent to which
footage is distributed over time and space.
BWCs as Electronic Employee Monitoring
BWCs are best understood as both a technological solution to enduring debates surrounding police
use of force and the latest iteration of employee monitoring in public organizations (Fusi & Feeney,
2018). Electronic performance monitoring has both direct and indirect effects on workers (Carayon,
1993), and empirical evidence shows that workplace surveillance increases job stress and contri-
butes to poorer health of workers (Aiello & Shao, 1993; Smith, Carayon, Sanders, Lim, & LeGrande,
1992). A recent line of research has examined BWCs as a form of electronic monitoring associated
with increases in officer emotional exhaustion (Adams & Mastracci, 2018), which itself is associated
with poorer health outcomes (Kop, Euwema, & Schaufeli, 1999; Maslach, 2005; Schaible & Six,
2016). The effects of electronic performance monitoring on productivity and the subjective experi-
ences of employees are moderated by the social context of the workplace (Aiello & Kolb, 1995).
Policing has long been recognized as constituting a distinct, even unique, social context (Bittner,
1973; Niederhoffer, 1967; Walker & Katz, 2012). Little is known, however, about how that social
context affects how police officers themselves react to the increased internal administrative surveil-
lance, or the external societal surveillance, represented by BWCs.
Our conceptual framework of BWCs as electronic performance monitoring follows work by
Alder (2001) which attributes employees’ reactions to monitoring as a consequence of organiza-
tional culture. Alder finds electronic monitoring is perceived as fairer when there is substantial
employee input into designing the monitoring system and when the monitoring is restricted to actual
job performance. To the first point, adoption of BWCs has been rapid and robust, and entirely
imposed from above, and in some cases mandated through a court order. Frontline officers have
had little to no input on the decision to adopt BWCs (Bayley, 2008) and when police labor orga-
nizations have attempted to oppose BWC implementation, those attempts have been largely defeated
(McGinnes, 2016; New York Civil Liberties Union, 2013).
The second theme of fairness identified by Alder (2001), that monitoring is carefully restricted to
job performance, is an open question in the BWC context. At present, most BWCs are activated
manually by officers, and decisions to activate or not are guided by departmental...

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