• Shea Warren Cronin

    Shea Warren Cronin is a Metropolitan College assistant professor of criminal justice, with expertise in criminal justice administration and policy; he can be reached at swcronin@bu.edu. Profile

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There are 4 comments on POV: Police Body Cameras Aren’t the Answer to Excessive Force

  1. Interesting article. I agree–I think these programs to institute video cameras will prove costly, detrimental, and ineffective. In the extreme cases, where video seems most necessary, I fear it will be less helpful than everyone is anticipating. I think video cameras undermine officer trustworthiness and that it sends the message, “this cop has to be watched, or he’s going to break the law.” This is a dangerous narrative–for the police and the public. This is the other angle that hasn’t been approached–the public/social responsibility in this issue of “excessive force.” When people start taking accountability for their crimes, I think we can begin to have the conversation. If people won’t move past the “the cop used excessive force” narrative, the conversation shouldn’t take place. Both sides have to be willing to come to the table admitting faults and open to feedback. Should officers attempt to exercise more discretion when dealing with people? Yes. Should people learn to stop resisting arrest? You bet.

  2. The answer to excessive force lies in the psychology of the policing culture. Evidence of this can be found in two highly publicized cases of abuse in the sister organization of policing, the correctional institutions. These two recent cases from New York are reflective of this culture.

    “The guards at Rikers Island are notoriously violent toward inmates—especially mentally ill ones—and it’s relatively rare that even documented beatings result in punishment for those responsible. That’s why it’s a surprising, encouraging development that a judge recommended the termination of six employees this week.”

    “Mr. Williams was wondering why a sergeant would be doing the grunt work of conducting an impromptu drug test when, he said, a fist hammered him hard on the right side of his rib cage. He doubled up, collapsing to the floor. More blows rained down. Mr. Williams tried to curl up to protect himself from the pummeling of batons, fists and kicks. Someone jumped on his ankle. He screamed in pain. He opened his eyes to see a guard aiming a kick at his head, as though punting a football. I’m going to die here, he thought.”

  3. I am a retired Police Chief and I currently serve as a Director of Policy and Training with a County Prosecutors Office. I have been involved with police training for over twenty years. Body Worn Cameras are in fact an underutilized tool. Video of officer performance allows us to capture the results of officer actions and decision making in a specific moment in time. In essence that performance can tell us if our training efforts are being realized in the officer’s performance.

    One of the many issues facing police performance is law enforcement officers focus on results without considering process. The “how” is often overlooked as insignificant as long as the “what” catching the bad guy, making the arrest etc is done. Gteatwr financial and reputarional loss occur during process inconsistencies than when we fail to capture a suspect, no matter the crime.

    Our agency has just completed a pilot program involving three agencies, who reviewed 169 body camera videos involving traffic stops, mental health calls, and DWI investigations. What we learned above all else was that the officer who commits an error is not the problem, but a result of larger issues that originate from organizational culture, policy, leadership and supervision and training.

    Role ambiguity and fear based training play a large part in police performance. Once we identify the behavior, and measure its impact we can then begin to conduct a form of root cause analysis to discover where the issues originate. Bofy worn camera help us do that. A panacea? No. But an important tool in identifying error and working to improve performance and Police service delivery.


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