Community perceptions: procedural justice, legitimacy and body-worn cameras

Community perceptions: procedural justice, legitimacy and body-worn cameras


Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute (2020)


Paige S. Thompson, Bryce E. Peterson, Daniel S. Lawrence


Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have received increasing empirical attention as more police agencies rapidly deploy this new technology among officers. Recent research estimates that around half (47.4%) of all agencies and a large majority of those with 500 or more officers (79.6%) have established an operational BWC program (Hyland, 2018). BWCs can improve police operations by providing objective, recorded accounts of police-community interactions that can provide valuable evidence in investigations. However, for many agencies the impetus for establishing BWC programs is to increase transparency, accountability and legitimacy to improve community trust in police (BJA, 2018). This goal is particularly germane after a series of high-profile cases in the United States involving controversial interactions between police and community members. These highly publicized events shed light on swelling racial tensions between officers and communities of color. A growing body of research shows that the public is generally supportive of BWCs, with high expectations in regards to increasing legitimacy, transparency and holding officers accountable to treat people in procedurally just ways. Still, community member support varies by race and other demographic factors (Lawrence et al., 2018). Moreover, much remains unknown about how individuals perceive body camera programs in their own community and how these perceptions hold across different groups. The current study builds on this body of work by measuring community support for the BWC program implemented in Milwaukee, WI.

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