Police body cameras have been around for a few years now and, since then, it’s helped an incredible number of officers get justice. A recent study shows that body cameras are, indeed, extremely effective when it comes to judgment of intent. In other words: people who watch body camera footage are less likely to blame the wearer. But the reason for that isn’t as obvious as people think.
Relying on dash cams to show the whole truth about an incident is an old and ineffective way of trying to protect officers against false accusations, as they usually don’t show the complete chain of events that lead to that occurrence. The research was done with over 2,000 observers and included 8 different experiments showing footage from body cameras and dash cameras. Researchers came to the conclusion that, when observers watched footage from body cameras, they attributed lower levels of intent to officers than when they watched dash cam footage.
Most people would think that happens because body cameras put viewers in the shoes of the officer, making them more relatable in the eyes of the observers. That would be a great guess but, according to researchers, that’s not the explanation. According to Broderick Turner, a doctoral student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, that behavior is due to something called visual salience, a basic principle of cognitive psychology that states “we essentially need a person to make attributional judgment.” Because the body cameras show very little or no parts of the wearer’s body parts, it’s hard for people to blame them. The way researchers came to that conclusion was by showing viewers staged body camera footages with the officer’s body parts in it, such as hands and arms, and these footages caused people to be more likely to blame the wearer than the footages that didn’t show any body parts.
One way or another, police body cameras are effective. Not only they show a closer view of the occurrence but, when combined with in-car cameras, viewers are able to get a better understanding of the whole situation. That’s the only way to guarantee the truth will always come to light so justice can be served.