A new study from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology showed that having police officers wear body cameras not only protects the public, but the police officers themselves, TakePart reported.
The study involved examining the Rialto, California Police Department’s body camera use over the course of a year. Results found incidents using force by police dropped by 59 percent, while reports against officers fell 87 percent when compared to the previous year.
“An officer is obliged to issue a warning from the start that an encounter is being filmed,” wrote co-author of the study Barak Ariel, “impacting the psyche of all involved by conveying a straightforward, pragmatic message: We are all being videotaped and expected to follow the rules.”
Results from the study, the first of its kind, had been reported as early as summer 2013, “making the city of Rialto a poster child for the use of the new technology,” TakePart pointed out. But the researchers said their results are just the first step in finding out just how effective the body cameras actually are.
“Rialto is but one experiment; before this policy is considered more widely, police forces, governments and researchers should invest further time and effort in replicating these findings,” said Cambridge’s Alex Sutherland in a statement.
Regarding the death of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a New York City police officer this summer, Ariel said things could have played out much differently if all parties had known they were being filmed.
“The ‘preventative treatment’ of body-worn video is the combination of the camera plus both the warning and cognition of the fact that the encounter is being filmed,” said Ariel. “In the tragic case of Eric Garner, police weren’t aware of the camera and didn’t’ tell the suspect that he, and therefore they, were being filmed.”
The researchers will be replicating their body-camera experiment with 30 different police departments and hope to have new data to announce next year. Hopefully similar studies will produce similar results. After the numerous unfortunate events of the past summer (and throughout the past), increasing the safety of both the police and the public during encounters between the two groups is of the utmost importance.