Police officers in Mesa and Phoenix are wearing cameras and working with ASU criminology professors to study their effects on use of force and complaints against the officers.
Just over a year ago, the federal government decided police departments around the country should investigate how to use more technology, and criminology professors Justin Ready and Charles Katz saw an opportunity.
“There was a federal solicitation to study new technology and how police use it, so we wrote a proposal and began thinking about on-officer cameras about a year ago,” Ready said.
Originally intended for Phoenix Police, Mesa PD contacted Ready after a radio interview about the project. Ultimately, both sites participated in the study, with Katz in charge of Phoenix and Ready in charge of Mesa.
The project just finished 10 months of data collection in Mesa. Collection methods included officer surveys that happened at roll call, officers randomly being asked to write field contact reports on how their interactions went on that day and interviews with residents to see what they thought of the officers’ behavior during this time.
The study consists of 50 officers wearing cameras and 50 officers acting as a control group. In the 10 months before the study, the group that would wear the cameras had 30 complaints filed against its members, and the control group saw 25. During the study the control group saw 23 complaints, but the officers wearing cameras only had eight complaints filed against them, Ready said.
Although this is exciting, Ready said there are two possible reasons for the change. Either the officers aren’t committing as many violations that could have a complaint filed against them, or citizens who might have fabricated a claim before now realize that they cannot.
“One of the outcomes we’re looking at is civil liability and accountability and citizen complaints,” he said.
Jacob Pritchett, the president of the Young Americans for Liberty at ASU, is a fan of the idea.
“I’ve read that they help keep complaints and use of force down,” he said. “It’s a good tool to help keep officers accountable. They’ve raised some privacy concerns, but they can’t really put up a good claim that there’s no reason for them to wear cameras.”
This positive response isn’t limited specifically to members of the student body affiliated with political groups such as Young Americans for Liberty.
Musical theater freshman Alex Crossland said he likes the idea and thinks it will go over well with youth.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” he said. “It helps to uphold the constitution, and a lot of youth today are really concerned with things like that and with police brutality.”
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