Why Dash Cameras Improve Police-Public Interactions
Police body and dash-mounted cameras could help create more cooperation and positive interactions with public relations. A police dash cam creates an expectation of visibility, similar to an impartial bystander who will remember every detail of the interaction perfectly. In 2015, one study found that 6,000 out of the 18,000 police departments in California were assigning body cams to their officers, with good reason.
The Pew Research Group decided to do a study on how a police dash cam and body cam might affect their interactions with the public on the job. About 52% of the officers’ administrators believed that using the cameras would foster good relations with the public. When asked about how the body cams might influence their fellow officer’s behavior, 50% of participants believed that the cameras would encourage the officers more likely to act by the book under all circumstances. One study found that police officers wearing a body com received 93% less public complaints than those without.
These numbers are not insignificant. Civilians clearly feel more comfortable interacting with police officers who have a camera recording the interaction, whether that takes the form of a police dash cam or body cam. The reason why the public feels more comfortable and secure may have to do with proof.
Police officers hold a considerable amount of power. They decide who is breaking the law and needs to be taken off the streets, and those who might have made a bad decision but can be given a stern warning. This power frightens people, because people usually have some fear of authority.
On the other hand, police officers have an extremely stressful job. They have to use their judgement to decide how to keep civilians safe. It can be difficult to ascertain the perfect way to act in a high-stress situation.
A camera is impartial to who is right and who is wrong. It cannot be persuaded or fooled. A police dash cam is preferred over no camera in most police and public interactions because it is a sign that either party can be absolved of accusations of misconduct. When justice may come down to one person’s word against another’s, the impartial gaze of a camera can be reassuring.