Perspective Bias and Attitudes Toward the Police- An Analysis of Video-Recorded Citizen and Police Interactions

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2020-11-13

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Abstract

Police officers across the United States face an onslaught of change, driven primarily by social upheaval in a country whose citizens are increasingly skeptical of the government and its institutions (Pew Research Center, 2019). One important change to the police occupation is the increased role of technology, specifically, the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs). These devices which are affixed to an officer’s uniform, may protect them from false accusations of misconduct and provide clarity and transparency to potentially controversial police encounters with citizens. A nationally representative survey of police departments across the United States found that one third of law enforcement agencies use BWCs and another 50 percent of departments intending to deploy them (Police Executive Research Forum, 2018). Despite the widespread use of BWCs, few studies have investigated the potential problem of perspective bias and in those that have, research suggests that camera angles play a role in the interpretation of encounters. This study examines the role of camera perspective bias in perceptions of police conduct. To accomplish this goal, video footage, shot from different perspectives, of two police-citizen encounters in which force was used were shown to study participants and their perceptions captured using survey methodology. The findings suggest there is a significant difference in respondents’ perceptions of the justifiability of officer use of force depending on the perspective from which the video is recorded.

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Police brutality, Police misconduct, Wearable video devices, Perception

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