Will putting cameras on police reduce polarization?

Author:Sommers, Roseanna
Position:III. Study Two: Is Video Evidence Less Susceptible than Nonvideo Evidence to the Influence of Prior Attitudes? B. Study Results through Conclusion, with footnotes and appendices, p. 1334-1362
 
FREE EXCERPT
  1. Study Results

    Does the influence of identification differ depending on whether the stimulus is a video recording of the event versus another type of testimony? To answer this question, I conducted four linear regressions predicting factual judgments favoring police, subjective judgments favoring police, fairness judgments favoring police, and global judgments favoring police. In each model, I included identification with police, condition (dummy-coded), (113) and the interaction between identification and each dummy-coded condition as predictors. (114) As we will see in the next section, the four different types of evidence all gave rise to judgments that are significantly--and similarly--biased by prior attitudes toward police.

    1. Factual Judgments

      First, does the type of stimulus affect how strongly identification with police colors objective, factual judgments such as, "The citizen hit the officer," and "The officer hit the citizen"?

      [FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

      Figure 1 displays how someone high in identification (one SD above the average) would differ from someone low in identification (one SD below the average), in each of the four conditions. (116) As Figure 1 illustrates, in all four conditions, higher identification with the police is significantly associated with objective judgments favoring the police. (117) That is, across all four stimulus types, high identifiers were significantly more likely than low identifiers to agree with factual statements such as, "The citizen tried to hide something from the officer" or "The officer hit the citizen" (reverse scored).

      The linear regression indicates that the overall interaction between identification and stimulus type did not quite meet the threshold for statistical significance, although it is close. (118) This means that the four ways of presenting the evidence gave rise to similarly strong relationships between identification and factual judgments about what the citizen and officer did. In other words, video evidence was not significantly more effective than testimony from various perspectives at counteracting the influence of mock jurors' bias in favor or against police officers--at least for objective, factual judgments.

      While we lack evidence of a systematic relationship between the type of stimulus and the strength of participants' reliance on their prior attitudes toward police, we can nonetheless drill down further to compare individual stimulus types to one another. For instance, does video evidence reduce the effect of identification when you compare it to just the dueling-accounts condition? What about when you compare it to just the neutral-perspective condition? The results reveal that video evidence does not differ significantly from the dueling-accounts condition or the neutral-perspective condition when we examine these pairwise comparisons. (119)

      However, the comparison between the video-footage condition and the single police account condition revealed a significant difference: the effect of identification was stronger in the single police account condition. (120) People who heard only the police officer's version of events relied more heavily on their prior identification than did people who watched the video clip of the incident.

      Overall, these results paint a somewhat murky picture. The interaction between prior identification and condition did not quite meet the threshold for statistical significance. This makes it difficult to conclude that the four conditions perform differently from one another in terms of how strongly identification predicts objective judgments. Only one of the more specific, pairwise comparisons showed a difference: fact finders given video footage rely less on their prior attitudes toward police when the comparator is the single police account. This finding indicates that video evidence is only a significant improvement when the alternative is a one-sided narrative.

    2. Subjective Judgments

      We next turn to the question of whether the type of stimulus affects the influence that identification has on subjective or inferential judgments--agreement with statements such as, "The citizen was being arrested for a severe crime," and "There was a high likelihood that the citizen was armed at the time."

      [FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

      Figure 2 shows the comparison between the four stimulus types in terms of how strongly prior identification affects subjective judgments. In all four conditions, participants' level of identification with police maintains a significant positive association with subjective interpretations favorable to police. (121) For instance, high identifiers were more likely than low identifiers to agree with statements such as, "The citizen posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or the safety of others" and "The officer tried to limit the amount of force he used."

      The regression predicting subjective judgments reveals that the overall interaction between identification and condition is not significant. (122) The different ways of presenting the evidence made no difference in the relationship between identification and judgments about subjective matters such as whether the police officer tried to defuse the situation or limit the amount of force he used.

      As before, even though we found no evidence that evidence type makes a significant difference overall, I conducted individual comparisons between the video-footage condition and the other three conditions. These comparisons again reveal that video evidence did not reduce the effect of prior identification when compared to the dueling accounts (123) or neutral perspective (124) conditions. Video evidence does reduce the effect of prior identification when compared to the single police account condition, but only to a marginally significant degree. (125) We thus lack strong evidence that fact finders given video testimony relied less on their prior attitudes toward police when deciding subjective and inferential factors such as whether the citizen posed a threat or was likely armed at the time of the incident. These judgments are important factors in determining whether an officer's use of force was reasonable. (126) These study results thus indicate that consequential matters will remain susceptible to biased interpretation, even when jurors have access to hard proof in the form of video footage.

    3. Fairness Judgments

      We next turn to the question of whether the type of stimulus affects the influence identification has on perceptions that the police acted fairly--agreement with statements such as, "The officer treated the citizen with respect and dignity" and "The officer allowed the citizen to express his views before making decisions."

      [FIGURE 3 OMITTED]

      Figure 3 shows the comparison between the four stimulus types in terms of how prior identification affects perceptions of procedural justice--that is, the sense that the police acted fairly. In all four conditions, participants' level of identification with police maintains a significant positive association with procedural justice judgments favoring the police. (127) For instance, high identifiers are more likely than low identifiers to agree with statements such as, "The officer made decisions about what to do in fair ways."

      The regression predicting fairness judgments reveals that the overall interaction between identification and condition is not significant. (128) The different ways of presenting the evidence made no difference in the relationship between identification and judgments about whether the officer acted fairly and respectfully.

      As before, I conducted individual comparisons between the video-footage condition and the other three conditions. These comparisons showed that video evidence did not reduce the effect of prior identification when compared to the dueling-accounts condition, (129) the neutral-perspective condition, (130) or the single police account condition. (131) In sum, we lack evidence that people reviewing video footage relied less on their prior attitudes toward police when deciding whether the officer treated the citizen fairly.

    4. Global Judgments

      Finally, we turn to the question of whether the type of stimulus affects the influence of identification on global judgments of police wrongdoing--agreement with statements such as, "The officer's use of force was reasonable here" and "The officer should be reprimanded or punished in some way" (reverse scored).

      [FIGURE 4 OMITTED]

      Figure 4 depicts the comparison between the four stimulus types in terms of how strongly participants rely on their prior attitudes when making global judgments about the officer's culpability. Prior identification has a significant effect in all four conditions (132): low identifiers were more likely to agree with statements such as, "The officer's use of force was unnecessary here" "The officer's use of force was excessively violent here" and "The officer's use of force was reasonable here" (reverse scored).

      The regression results reveal that the overall interaction between identification and stimulus type is not statistically significant. (133) The four methods of presenting evidence give rise to similarly strong relationships between identification and global judgments favoring the police officer. That is, when fact finders are deciding global matters such as whether an officer deserves punishment, they rely on their prior attitudes toward police, and the amount to which they draw on these prior attitudes is about the same regardless of whether they reviewed video evidence or other types of evidence.

      The pairwise comparisons revealed that the video-footage condition significantly reduced the influence of prior identification relative to the neutral-perspective condition (134) and marginally reduced (135) influence of prior identification relative to the single police account condition. (136) But the video-footage condition does not differ from the dueling-accounts condition, (137) and the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP