Category Archives: Law Enforcement

Body-Worn Police Cameras: Separating Fact from Fiction – A Look at 5 Important Claims About the Technology

Source: Michael White and James Coldren, PM Magazine, March 2017

Since mid-2014, a number of police killings of residents has produced public outrage, civil disorder, and strong antipolice sentiment, especially among minority residents. In response to this crisis, in December 2014, President Obama formed the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and charged it with developing recommendations to enhance trust between police and minority communities, as well as to improve police accountability.

The task force final report, published in May 2015, highlighted body-worn cameras (BWCs) as a potential tool for achieving those objectives. Since 2015, the White House, Congress, and the U.S. Department of Justice have strongly supported the adoption of BWCs by police.

This is evidenced by the creation of a National Body-Worn Camera Toolkit by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and a federal funding program that has provided nearly $40 million to more than 175 law enforcement agencies for the purchase of BWCs; development of robust and comprehensive policies for BWC use; podcasts from researchers, subject matter experts, and practitioners; and a training and technical assistance mechanism that helps with BWC adoption and program management.

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Use of Lethal Force by US Police, 2010–2014

Source: James W. Buehler, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 107 No. 2, February 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives. To update previous examinations of racial/ethnic disparities in the use of lethal force by US police.

Methods. I examined online national vital statistics data for deaths assigned an underlying cause of “legal intervention” … for the 5-year period 2010 to 2014.

Results. Death certificates identified 2285 legal intervention deaths (1.5 per million population per year) from 2010 to 2014. Among males aged 10 years or older, who represented 96% of these deaths, the mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals was 2.8 and 1.7 times higher, respectively, than that among White individuals.

Conclusions. Substantial racial/ethnic disparities in legal intervention deaths remain an ongoing problem in the United States.

What everyone should know about their state’s budget

Source: Urban Institute, 2017
[tool was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation]

State and local governments educate schoolchildren, train the future workforce, care for the sick and elderly, build roads, patrol neighborhoods, extinguish fires, and maintain parks. In short, they’re pretty important. But few Americans understand where their state and local tax dollars go and to what effect. It’s not just the amount of money spent that matters, it’s why that money is spent the way it is.

Through this web tool, we aim to fill that knowledge gap. The tool allows users to get under the hood of their government and understand not only how much a state spends but also what drives that spending.

To do this, we apply a basic framework to all major areas of government spending. The framework says that state spending per capita is both a function of how many people receive a service and how much that service costs the state for each recipient. ….

…In this tool, you’ll see the spending per capita breakdown for all states and the District of Columbia across all major functional categories. It allows you to see how each state ranks, and you can sort by any factor you choose. (One frequent outlier is DC; though included in the rankings, it often functions more like a city than a state) We’ve included some annotations to guide you along the way. By exploring the tool, you’ll gain a sense of how much each state spends on any given area and why states spend what they do. ….

Police Body-Worn Camera Legislation Tracker

Source: Urban Institute, 2017

Laws governing how and when police body-worn cameras can be used and whether the footage is released vary considerably across the country. Use our legislation tracker, which we will update periodically, to find out more about passed and pending legislation in your state. ….
Related:
Police body camera policies: What’s in and what’s out
Source: Nancy G. La Vigne, Margaret Ulle, Urban Institute, January 12, 2017

State policies governing police body camera use are changing as rapidly as cameras are being deployed. About a year ago, we launched an interactive feature that tracks relevant body camera legislation. Since then, legislatures in 18 states passed new body camera laws. ….

Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

Source: Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, and Christian Henrichson, Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017

From the overview:
In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable public attention. Because many “users” of the system have very low incomes or none at all, there is growing concern that charging for justice amounts to criminalizing poverty, especially when people who can’t pay become further entangled in the justice system. In 2015, the city spent $6.4 million to incarcerate people who couldn’t pay bail or conviction fines and fees. By focusing on bail decisions and fines and fees assessed at conviction, Past Due, and its accompanying technical report, reveals the costs and other consequences of a system that tries to extract money from low-income people and then jails them when they can’t pay.
Related:
Technical Report
Summary

The Effect of Police Slowdowns on Crime

Source: Andrea Cann Chandrasekher, American Law and Economics Review, Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Though police strikes have been well studied, there are almost no articles written on the public safety consequences of police work slowdowns—labor actions where police officers reduce their ticket-writing and/or arrest productivity for a temporary period. This article fills the current void by presenting evidence on the 1997 New York City Police Department work slowdown, to my knowledge the longest documented police slowdown in U.S. history. Drawing on several, originally collected data sources from the NYPD and other city agencies, the article assesses the impact of the slowdown on ticket enforcement, arrest enforcement, and crime. The findings indicate that, at least in the context of contract-motivated slowdowns where the union may be motivated to garner public support for pay increases, the effects on public safety may be limited. Specifically, in the case of the 1997 slowdown, ticket-writing for all categories of tickets fell dramatically but arrest enforcement for all types of serious crime stayed the same or increased. Accordingly, the crime effects were mostly concentrated in the area of minor criminal disorder (misdemeanors and violations). Only two categories of serious crime (larcenies and assaults) were affected and those crime increases were minimal.

Arrest-Related Deaths Program Redesign Study, 2015-16: Preliminary Findings

Source: Duren Banks, Paul Ruddle, Erin Kennedy, Michael G. Planty, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 250112, December 15, 2016

from the abstract:
Provides preliminary results of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) redesign of the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) collection component of the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program, which was established in response to the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), reauthorized in 2014. The ARD program represents a national accounting of persons who died during the process of arrest, including justifiable homicides by law enforcement personnel and deaths attributed to suicide, accidental injury, and natural causes. This technical report describes BJS’s revised hybrid ARD data collection process using open information sources and detailed official records from law enforcement agencies and medical examiner/coroners (ME/C) offices. It presents an assessment of the open source data collection method and provides preliminary counts of the number of deaths and other information reported by law enforcement agencies and ME/C offices.
Related:
Summary
ASCII file
Comma-delimited format
Part of the Arrest-Related Deaths Series

Fatigue and on-duty injury among police officers: The BCOPS study

Source: Desta Fekedulegn, Cecil M. Burchfiel, Claudia C. Ma, Michael E. Andrew, Tara A. Hartley, Luenda E. Charles, Ja K. Gu, John M. Violanti, Journal of Safety Research, New Articles in Press, December 8, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Policing involves inherent physical and psychological dangers as well as occupational stressors that could lead to chronic fatigue. Although accounts of adverse events associated with police fatigue are not scarce, literature on the association between chronic fatigue and on-duty injury are limited. Methods: Participants were officers from the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) Study. A 10-item questionnaire was administered to assess how tired or energetic the officers generally felt irrespective of sleep hours or workload. The questionnaire consisted of five positively worded and five negatively phrased items that measured feelings of vigor/energy and tiredness, respectively. Total as well as separate scores for positive and negative items were computed by summing scores of individual items. Payroll records documenting each officer’s work history were used to assess occurrence of injury. Poisson regression was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PR) of injury. Results: Nearly 40% of officers reported feeling drained. Overall prevalence of on-duty injury during the past year was 23.9%. Injury prevalence showed a significant increasing trend across tertiles of total fatigue score: 19.6, 21.7, and 30.8% for lowest, middle and highest tertiles, respectively (trend p-value = 0.037). After controlling for potential confounders, a 5-unit increase in total fatigue score was associated with a 12% increase in prevalence of injury which was marginally significant (p = 0.075). A 5-unit increase in fatigue score of the positively worded items was associated with a 33% increase in prevalence of injury (PR = 1.33, 95% CI: 1.04–1.70, p = 0.022). Conclusion: Officers who do not feel active, full of vigor, alert, or lively had a significantly higher prevalence of non-fatal work place injury compared to their counter parts. Practical applications: With additional prospective evidence, workplace interventions designed to enhance level of energy may reduce feelings of tiredness and hence may prevent workplace injury.

Highlights
• A validated chronic fatigue questionnaire was used to assess fatigue in officers.
• Non-fatal occupational injury was ascertained using objective work history records.
• Injury prevalence was higher in those who do not feel active, vigorous, alert, or lively.

Body Camera Obscura: The Semiotics of Police Video

Source: Caren Myers Morrison, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-17, August 19, 2016

From the abstract:
Our understanding of violent encounters between the police and civilians is now primarily mediated by video images. With surprising rapidity, recording these encounters has become an integral part of modern policing, sparking the current body camera bonanza.

When these recordings are used as evidence in police use-of-force cases, the factfinders must decide whether the police officer’s actions were “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment. But there is an unrecognized fault line between “police video” (video recorded by the police in the course of their official duties) and “eyewitness video” (recorded by bystander-witnesses). Police video tends to recirculate dominant narratives of violence and masculinity as heroic ideals that coexist easily with the legal standard of the reasonable officer. In contrast, eyewitness videos typically offer the counter-narrative of an abusive state.

These images have evidentiary value, but also cultural currency. They reflect back to us our feelings about violence, race, masculinity, and the law. This article proposes a descriptive critique of the use of video evidence in assessing the lawfulness of police violence. Using insights from semiotics, film criticism, cultural theory, and cognitive psychology, it attempts to sketch out a more nuanced way of approaching video evidence in the context of these cases.