SPOKANE, Wash --- Arizona State University studied how the Spokane Police Department and citizens of Spokane feel about the use of body cameras, and if wearing them changes anything. Researchers found after the introduction of body cameras, there was a decrease in complaints and an increase in satisfaction across the board.
This study was completely independent and was not paid for by either the Spokane Police Department or the City of Spokane. The ASU researchers tracked officers with body cameras and interviewed roughly 250 people about their interactions with officers who were wearing the cameras.
Body cameras have been a hot topic since they were introduced. SPD has body cameras for all their patrol officers and the investigative units. The researchers at ASU found that most people and police officers like the body cameras.
“If you consider the benefits in terms of the reductions in use of force and complaints, as well as the citizen attitude, yeah, I would make the case to the Mayor or to whoever that it's been a success in the Spokane Police Department,” said Dr. Michael White from ASU.
The study shows use of force incidents were rare to begin with but did decrease after body cameras were implemented. The SPD point to more than the body cameras as the reason for the decrease, they have added new training for officers as well.
"While the study did show a decrease in not only use of force and complaints during that timeframe, I think it's important to not attribute all of those decreases solely to body worn cameras, they're an important tool and part of that, I think you also need to consider during that timeframe our department did the verbal de-escalation training and they also did crisis intervention technique training, the entire department went through that training," said Eric Olsen from the SPD.
Citizen complaints from police interaction also went down after body cameras came in to play. Researchers interviewed about 250 people after they had contact with officers wearing body cameras. Around 80 percent said they were treated fairly and with respect by the officers. More than 30 minorities were interviewed as part of that group, and they responded slightly more negatively to the officer interactions. SPD officials said they want to bring those numbers closer so there is not a discrepancy between the responses.
The independent study found the majority of the community support the continued use of body cameras. The study also showed that about 85 percent of the officers believe any disadvantages from wearing the cameras are outweighed by the advantages of wearing the cameras.