Police, Public, and Arrestee Perceptions of Body-Worn Video: A Single Jurisdictional Multiple-Perspective Analysis

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Police, Public, and Arrestee
Perceptions of Body-Worn
Video: A Single Jurisdictional
Multiple-Perspective Analysis
Joseph Clare
, Darren Henstock
, Christine McComb
, Roy Newland
Geoffrey C. Barnes
, Murray Lee
, and Emmeline Taylor
This article analyzes police, public, and arrestee survey responses from a single jurisdiction to give a
multiple-perspective insight into the use of body-worn video (BWV) cameras by police. Police
attitudinal data were collected from before (n¼190), during (n¼139), and at the conclusion
(n¼221) of a BWV implementation trial. Public attitudes were collected at the conclusion of the
BWV implementation trial via online survey (n¼995 respondents) and intercept survey (n¼428
respondents). Arrestee attitudes (n¼302) were collected for detainees in police custody over a
6-month period immediately preceding the BWV trial. Results showed (a) all three perspectives
were supportive of the use of BWV, (b) the extent to which police felt BWV influenced their
behavior tempered during the trial, (c) the public who had encountered BWV-wearing officers and
the arrestee sample indicated limited belief that BWV would reduce bad behavior, and (d) there was
clear contention about the policy and practice decisions around recording. These findings have
significance for BWV trials, commenting on the importance of collecting police attitudes at multiple
points, separating the attitudes of public who did encounter police-wearing BWV, and data col-
lection/policy for evaluation outcomes.
body-worn video cameras, police surveys, public surveys, arrestee surveys
The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Digital Policing Program, Capability and Coordination Portfolio, Western Australian Police, Perth, Western Australia,
Evidence-Based Policing Division, Western Australian Police, East Perth, Western Australia, Australia
University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
City, University of London, Northampton Square, London, United Kingdom
Corresponding Author:
Joseph Clare, The University of Western Australia, M253, 35 Stirling Hwy., Perth, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
Email: joe.clare@uwa.edu.au
Criminal Justice Review
2019, Vol. 44(3) 304-321
ª2019 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819846236
This article summarizes findings from police officer, public, and arrestee surveys focused on
attitudes toward police use of body-worn video (BWV). These multiple-perspectives were generated
within a single jurisdiction and contributed to a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of BWV by the
Western Australia Police Force (WAPOL). The aim of this article is to add to the general body of
literature critiquing attitudes toward the use of BWV technology in a policing context. The novel
contributions of this article are to add to the limited research: (a) assessing officer perceptions of
BWV at multiple points through implementation; (b) analyzing the impact of actual police–public
interactions in the presence of cameras (as opposed to hypothetical opinions about the technology);
(c) utilizing multiple survey methodologies within a single design, highlighting the importance of
methodological decisions for evaluation findings; and (d) including the arrestees’ perspectives on
this emerging technology. The analysis explores attitudes toward BWV as a source of evidence, the
impact it has on community relations and police/public behavior, the complexity around consent and
recording practices, and the relationship between BWV and complaints against police. The outcome
of these Australian-based surveys indicate overall support of this technology but also highlight some
important procedural issue s about recording and caution a gainst expecting BWV to produc e a
“civilizing effect” for public behavior (White, Todak, & Gaub, 2017). The findings are discussed
with respect to previous similar research and the broader implications for BWV technology in a
policing context. The remainder of the introduction briefly summarizes what is known about BWV
cameras in policing and outlines the research focus for the current study.
The Inconsistent Relationship Between BWV Cameras and Behavior
There has been substantial recent effort to undertake RCTs of the implementation of BWV in a
policing context (Ariel, Farrar, & Suthe rland, 2015; Ariel et al., 2016; Braga, Co ldren, Sousa,
Rodriguez, & Alper, 2017; Braga, Sousa, Coldren, & Rodriguez, 2 018; Drover & Ariel, 2015;
Henstock & Ariel, 2017; Owens & Finn, 2018; Peterson, Yu, La Vigne, & Lawrence, 2018; Wallace,
White, Gaub, & Todak, 2018; White, Gaub, & Todak, 2018; Yokum, Ravishankar, & Coppock,
2017). In addition to this, Piza (2018) and Lum, Stoltz, Koper, and Scherer (2019) have undertaken
comprehensive literature reviews to identify the policy implications and knowledge gaps associated
with police use of BWV. Despite the replication of some patterns across studies, there is substantial
inconsistency in the observed relationship between BWV and the behavior of police and members of
the public.
There is good reason to expect that BWV should cause people to behave differently, assuming
they know the technology is present, with this change in behavior driven by the awareness they are
being watched (the “Hawthorne effect”; supported by a large body of research across a range of
contexts: for a systematic review, see McCambridge, Witton, & Elbourne, 2014). At this stage, it is
not clear the extent to which the Hawthorne effect can explain behavior when BWV is present. From
a police perspective, evidence that the cameras improve behavior does exist with respect to reduced
complaints against police (Ariel, 2016b; Ariel et al., 2015; Ariel, Sutherland, Henstock, Young, &
Sosinski, 2017; Braga et al., 2017; Ellis, Jenkins, & Smith, 2015; Peterson et al., 2018; White, Gaub,
et al., 2018) and reduced (presumably unjustified) police use of force (Ariel et al., 2015; Braga et al.,
2017, 2018; Henstock & Ariel, 2017; Jennings, Fridell, Lynch, Jetelina, & Reingle Gonzalez, 2017;
White, Gaub, et al., 2018). However, BWV has also been found to have a negligible impact on police
use of force (Ariel, 2016b; Ariel et al., 2016; Headley, Guerette, & Shariati, 2017; Peterson et al.,
2018; Yokum et al., 2017) and civilian complaints (Ariel et al., 2017; Yokum et al., 2017). Addi-
tional inconsistency is added by studies that demonstrate an op posite to the Hawthorne effect,
producing increases in assaults against BWV-wearing officers (termed a “backfire effect”; Ariel
et al., 2016, 2018) and findings that short-term positive effects of BWV on decreasing police
complaints dissipate over time (White, Gaub, et al., 2018).
Clare et al. 305

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