Understanding the Role of Race and Procedural Justice on the Support for Police Body-Worn Cameras and Reporting Crime

AuthorTimothy Ikenna Lawrence,Ariel Mcfield,Kamilah Freeman
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Understanding the Role of
Race and Procedural Justice
on the Support for Police
Body-Worn Cameras and
Reporting Crime
Timothy Ikenna Lawrence
, Ariel Mcfield
, and Kamilah Freeman
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) among police officers have garnered mixed support among community
members. On the one hand, proponents of BWCs contend that there are benefits of BWCs such as
reduction of complaints, increase legitimacy, decrease unlawful shootings, and increase transpar-
ency. On the other, certain community members maintain less support for BWCs, citing that while
police officers wear BWCs, it violates police–citizen interaction privacy. Although there is mixed
support for BWCs among community members, little is known as to whether race plays a role in
support for BWCs and whether confidence in the police relates to reporting crime/procedural
justice, leading to support for BWCs. The current study used two mediation moderation analyses to
examine whether race moderated the relationship between confidence in the police and reporting
crime/procedural justice, leading to support for BWCs while controlling for police legitimacy and
effectiveness. The first model suggests that race moderated the relationship between confidence in
the police and reporting crime but not the relationship between reporting crime and support for
BWCs. The second model revealed that race did not moderate the relationship between confidence
in the police and procedural justice. Also, race did not moderate the relationship between proce-
dural justice and support for BWCs. Implications are discussed.
police processes, law enforcement/security, crime policy, courts/law, crime prevention, race and
crime/justice, other, community-based corrections, corrections
In 2014, an African American male, Michael Brown, was killed by a White Police Officer, Darren
Wilson. Shortly after the incident, the public’s outrage resulted in riots in which properties were
destroyed, which also motivated the Black Lives Matter Movement (Culhane et al., 2016; Maguire
Prairie View A&M University, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Timothy Ikenna Lawrence, Prairie View A&M University, 100 University Dr., Prairie View, TX 77446, USA.
Email: tlawrence3@pvamu.edu
Criminal Justice Review
ª2021 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/07340168211022794
2023, Vol. 48(1) 48–68
et al., 2017). As a consequence of these events, certain community members and police officers were
the victims of violence (Nix et al., 2017; Nix et al., 2018; Weitzer, 2015). To answer the public’s
disorder, the victims’ families, community activists, and politicians suggested using body-worn
cameras (BWCs) to increase legitimacy, transparency, and accountability for police departments
(Culhane et al., 2016; Smykla et al., 2016).
Many law enforcement agencies have implemented the use of BWCs in their daily interactions
with the public (Crow et al., 2017; Jennings et al., 2017; Tregle et al., 2020). Supporters of BWCs
contend that it has decreased police use of deadly force and reduced illegitimate complaints (Ariel
et al., 2015; Demir et al., 2020; Jennings et al., 2015). Further, community members suggested that
their communities are safer when police officers use BWCs (Gaub et al., 2016). BWCs have a
deterrent effect on violent behavior toward police officers. For example, during a routine traffic stop,
the motorist is less likely to be violent against an officer if the person is aware of the officers’ BWCs
(Ariel et al., 2018). Another study found that officers with BWCs are often proactive when inter-
acting with citizens and less likely to be intrusive in their investigative tactics (Ready & Young,
2015). In general, a survey of community members indicated that 80%of the public endorsed the use
of BWCs (Sousa et al., 2015) and 66%of the population suggested that BWCs would strengthen
police–citizen interactions (Sousa et al., 2018). As the public often maintains positive attitudes
toward BWCs, certain police officers are also supportive of BWCs. Prior studies found that police
officers supported BWCs because they perceived that it protected them from illegitimate complaints
(Goetschel & Peha, 2017; Owens & Finn, 2018; Pelfrey & Keener, 2016). Officers who wear BWCs
often received fewer complaints than officers who did not (Ariel et al., 2017; Braga et al., 2018), and
it helped reduce police and citizen violence (Gaub & White, 2020).
Despite the support for the use of BWCs, some individuals maintain less support for BWCs for
various reasons, such as concerns about citizens’ privacy while interacting with police officers
(Smykla et al., 2016). Certain individuals contend that most police departments do not use their
body cameras when there is apparent police misconduct; therefore, it is ineffective in providing
transparency (Goetschel & Peha, 2017). As certain community mem bers are less supportive of
BWCs, several studies have found contrasting or null effects of BWCs. For example, when police
officers use discretion about when to turn the camera on and off, the use of excessive police force
increased (Ariel et al., 2016). Similarly, another study found that BWCs did not influence effective
policing and were less influential in deterring violent behavior (Henstock & Ariel, 2017).
Although there are contradictory views and empirical support for BWCs, limited articles have
examined whether the support for BWCs is related to racial differences. The examination of racial
differences is important due to African Americans and Caucasians maintaining differing attitudes
toward police officers (Chaney & Robertson, 2013; B. W. Smith & Holms, 2003). These differing
attitudes could play a role in support for BWCs. One study found that while examining strategies to
improve police interactions with African Americans, eight of the 10 African Americans supported
BWCs (Grahma et al., 2019). Despite this, the author acknowledged the limitations of this result and
stated that participants were overall supportive of other reformative practices, which were not only
specific to attitudes toward BWCs. Another study found that Caucasians are often more supportive
of BWCs than African Americans (Ray et al., 2017; Sousa et al., 2018). While citing cultural and
community differences, prior literature suggests that race plays a complex role in police practices
reform, which warrants more empirical evidence (Crow et al., 2017). In line with this suggestion, it
is possible that support for BWCs is weakened or strengthened by race.
Although race may play a role in the support for BWCs, the degree to which individuals have
confidence in the police and perceive police officers to be legitimat e, effective, and fair when
interacting with the public could also play a role in the support for BWCs. For example, community
member’s perceptions of fairness and legitimacy directly increased support for BWCs (McCluskey
et al., 2019). While considering this perspective, this study aims to examine factors that are
Lawrence et al.

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