Study Suggests NJ Body Cam Law Will be Effective in Holding Cops Accountable
The study of police complaints in Chicago has found that body-camera video decreased the number of investigations dismissed for insufficient evidence and increased the number of disciplinary actions against police officers.
Body cameras are effective in holding police accountable, according to a new study by researchers at Stockton University, American University, and Georgia State University.
Lead author on the study and criminal justice assistant professor at Stockton, Nusret Sahin said the findings indicate that body-worn cameras led to a significant drop in unsustained cases as well as a hike in sustained cases with sufficient evidence available to investigators.
He said the results are valuable for New Jersey, where all police officers are now required to wear body cams. Legislation was introduced in June that would allow Jersey officers to review body camera footage before writing up a report.
With better recording technology, Sahin said the hope is that the cameras will provide a clearer picture about what happens during an incident so that the officers who may have made mistakes during an arrest will be disciplined.
The cameras mean there will be better investigations involving citizen complaints. Sahin said if citizens file a false complaint, the officers will benefit from evidence.
Sahin, who also trains police in Atlantic City and Pleasantville in procedural justice techniques, said the goal of his work is to improve relationships between the officers and communities.
The study also found that disparities in complaints across racial groups in the unsustained cases faded away with the implementation of body cams. Before the deployment of body cams, white and Hispanic citizen complaints were less likely to be sustained. But that changed after the deployment of the cameras.
Sahin said that when a person understands how the process works, he or she is more likely to accept the results, even if it is not always in their favor. If someone files a complaint and makes an argument about an incident, authorities can go to the videotape, which will show exactly what happened. The citizen, at the time, may admit what really happened and the same for the officer involved, he said.
Sahin hopes New Jersey will have a data collection system like the one in Chicago so they can conduct analysis on what happens after the deployment of body-worn cameras.