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Episode 52: Anniversary Spotlight on the BJA BWC Team (Part 2)

The BWC Technical and Training Assistance’s Dr. Chip Coldren interviews BJA’s Senior Policy Advisor Mike Roosa, ASU’s Dr. Michael White, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Todd Maxwell who are all part of BJA’s Body Worn Camera team to discuss solicitations, funding, research, the toolkit, technical and training assistance, the podcast series and other efforts supporting law enforcement and the justice community around BWCs.

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1 Year Podcast Anniversary

Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our podcast in honor of the one year anniversary of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Worn Camera podcast series. Speaking today we have : Dr. Chip Coldren, Michael Roosa, Dr. Michael White and Todd Maxwell. 

Chip Coldren:  OK.  Good.  So let’s talk with Dr. White for a few minutes.  Mike, you wrote a report in 2014 that was host by the cops office on assessing the evidence for body worn camera research.  It was a very valuable contribution to the field and probably at the time one of the most downloaded reports that anybody could remember.  I wonder if you might take a few minutes and talk about any important research that’s been completed since that time and what you think is, you know what’s in the works right now in terms of research on body worn cameras? 

Michael White: Sure Chip, I’d be happy to do that.  A good presentations on the research on body worn cameras you know in the weeks and months after that report came out, I had a slide that I would use that would list the available studies that have been published.  And at the time, there were three or four studies on the slide and now when I do that same presentation, and I use that same slide, I can’t even fit everything on it.  There are dozens and dozens of studies that have come out, and that’s a long way of saying that we’ve learned a whole lot in the last two, two and a half years about body worn cameras, about planning, about implementation, and about outcomes that we can accept. 

You know I think there are four areas that I’d like to highlight in terms of where we’ve had some real growth in our understanding.  The first is that, you know the (Rialto) study when it came out back in 2014 received a kind of attention and good reason has had a rigorous research design, really important outcomes, big drafts and complaints and news force.  But you know the lingering question was whether or not that was kind of lightning in a bottle or would we see those kinds of reductions in other studies. 

And you know, two years later the good news is that we’ve seen those kinds of reductions in other studies.  Of course shortly after (Rialto) we have seen that in with the (Mason) study and with Phoenix as well.  But more recently, researches at the University of South Florida has published studies on the Orlando Police Department on the Tampa Florida Police Department.  And again we’ve seen sizeable reductions in use of force and testing complaints after officers begin wearing cameras.  The second point though, is that hasn’t been universal.  There have been a handful of studies that have come out that have not found those (Rialto) like reductions and the big ticket outcomes. 

There have been a couple of studies that show no impact and even recently there was a study that came out that found increases in use of force that were tied to the deployment of body worn cameras.  And I think the importance of those days is that it’s telling us that you know, I think contacts matters, planning matters, the implementation process matters.  We can always expect that you’re going to have these automatic reductions in big outcomes just because officers start wearing cameras.  There’s a process that has to be followed, has to be deliberate, has to be cautious, it has to be collaborative.  And when that happens, I think we can expect those types of big outcomes. 

But when it doesn’t, you know we shouldn’t expect that we’re going to see large reductions and use of force, and complaints, and other outcome.  The two other areas I would point too, where there’s been a lot of development, a lot of research.  One area is officer perception, obviously, the degree to which officers embrace with technology is critically important to its effective use and there has been a big half of dozens studies now that have surveyed officers.  And surveyed officers overtime asking them questions about the technology, but before there were cameras and after, and those studies consistently show that officer support is relatively high and importantly, it increases after they start wearing the technology. 

So as they did more comfortable with the technology, they increasingly embrace it.  And the last point I would raise involves citizens and citizen perception.  When the study was or my report was published back in 2014, we really had no idea what citizens thought of body worn cameras.  And now we’ve seen a couple of studies that have been general population, studies showing that citizens as a whole are supportive of officers wearing body worn cameras.  But more importantly, we’ve seen a few studies come out now that are – Research projects that are asking citizens who’ve actually been recorded how they feel about that. 

So it’s not general population, it’s the actual what I call consumers of police services that people who are recorded.  And we have results now from Spokane, Washington and Tempe, Arizona, and in both cases the individuals who are recorded on body worn cameras are stating that they had a very positive use about the technology and the support of others.  So those are four areas I think where we’ve seen a lot of development over the last few years.

Chip Coldren:     OK, thanks.  I think it’s probably safe to say that even though there’s been some different outcomes, the growing body of evidence is still pointing to more positive and negatives regarding the implementation of cameras.  So that’s fair to say? 

Michael White: I think it is fair to say and you know one good example is (Barrack Arielle) who’s been very active in terms of publishing research on body worn cameras and know how this work, has produced positive finding.  So for example, a few months ago he had a study that was published that basically concluded that you know in some cases use of force might increase after officers wore cameras. 

But the underlying story there was that the, whether or not, you know an increase in use of force or decreasing use of force was going to be observed, there’s really tied to policies.  And what he found was that and he has studies with ten different departments, when officers follow policy, meaning they activated the camera when they were supposed to, they advice citizens when they were supposed to.  When that happen, use of force decline. 

But what he found is when officers did not follow policy, that is they didn’t activate the camera immediately, they didn’t make the citizen notification.  Under those conditions use of force would actually increase.  So you know even in the studies that I produced either now or negative findings, you know I think as you look closer, you see just a little more nuance in terms of you know the effects.  And I think we need to stay focus on that and that’s a long way of saying, ‘yes, I think still that the majority of the research that come out is very positive.” 

Chip Coldren:     That’s very valuable actually, Mike.  One of the question for you, from your perspective what do we need to pursue in terms of research on cameras? 

Michael White: I think there are a couple of areas that we as researches really need to target over the next year.  The first is defining from aerial study that had just come out that I just referred to.  And in that study, he found that assaults on officers were more common when officers were wearing camera.  So essentially there was an increase and assaults among those officers who were wearing the technology compared to officers who were not.  And that was the first study that’s looked in that outcome.  Obviously, that’s a very, very important outcome so I think researchers need to focus on that.

 But in the tendency to look at just complaints in use of force, and I think that this other big thing that either assaults on officers is important to look at.  The other area I think we need to think about is whether or not the effects that we’re seeing are going to be long term or temporary, if possible, that officer behavior, citizen behavior could change when, you know when body worn cameras are deployed.  But it’s also possible that overtime, those positive effects may dissipate, and I think we need to kind of take a longer view if there’s findings and you know be cautious of how that dissipation overtime.

 The third area I think we need to focus on and this is a really important one is cause benefit announces because as Mike has suggested earlier, their significant cause associated with the implementation of a body worn camera program and you know it’s seen to media stories recently of departments walking at some of the cause particularly with a data storage and continued management, you know beyond say (inaudible).  So I think we need to do some very sophisticated cause benefit analysis to offer some empirical evidence that would inform some of those debates that are happening around the country. 

And the last area I think we need to focus on is the downstream impact, you know any sort of criminal justice textbook will tell you that the police are the gatekeepers of the criminal justice system.  So that means that the deployment of this technology has implications for those that are downstream for prosecutors for defense and for (course).  And I don’t think we have a very good understanding of how this technology is going to affect their downstream processes.  And I think we need to focus on that as well. 

Chip Coldren: Thanks and if I might add one, I know you and I have talked about this in the past.  We think that there, if there’s a civilizing effect of the cameras that this should be born out in officer safety and officer injury right?  So I would also suggest that we spend some time looking at that as well. 

Michael White: Excellent point, yes. 

Chip Coldren:  Yes.  Thank you very much, Mike.  Appreciate it.  Todd, we’re going to turn to you now.  I’d like to – Just by asking you to talk a little bit about the current state of the body worn camera to a kit and how it has been maintained and updated since it was implemented?

Todd Maxwell: Thank you.  It’s different being on this side being interviewed.  So right after we launched the toolkit, the body worn camera team met with members from the White House to discuss next steps, and met with some of their data scientist, and web designers, and experts in that field.  And one of the updates or ideas they gave us was to always have fresh date on there, always be adding new content, always be looking at the next web design feature that you could incorporate, keeping new social media, and keeping the site fresh. 

So right after we launched it, we started working on a new update to it.  And that the new update launched in May of 2016 of this year at ICP leading conference and we basically redid the entire Web Site.  And what we did is we focused on analytics, and what people out in the field were actually looking at and using, and then we updated the kit to focus on those areas and give it a better updated modern look to it, but also to focus on what the need for.  We want to make sure that those were anything they are clicking on and was important was featured. 

We also added announcement ticker that allows us to put the latest research, latest grant announcements like we just – The announcement from Department of Justice just came out, and the fact sheet that Mike was referring to earlier was posted up there.  So it allows us to get something up there immediately.  And we added our assess feed, so people can subscribe to it and get a lot of those announcement feeds.  We also added new pages on there for a podcast and videos.  And we added a page of funding because that was all the feedback we’re getting and (inaudible) feedback where always looking for feedback for the toolkit. 

And a lot of the change that toolkit have driven by what law enforcement and prosecution and the community asks us for.  So one of the things we are asked for is funding page to talk about a lot of things that Mike was talking about in the beginning of about solicitations, and some of the resources out there, so we added that.  Another feedback we got was that trying to find resources on the toolkit are somewhat hard, so we added a cool feature in a resource map that allows you to pick on, click on any state and get resources back for your state, so that allows for the sorting of it.

We ended up adding about 300 more research evaluation, studies, law enforcement policies, pilot program reports, and other department documents since the launch.  We had about 200 at launch and added little over 300 since the launch.  And those were all tied in to the policies matter to the resource map.  And so we’re sort of working on a resource map for the world also because we’ve gotten a lot of as Dr. White knows, and as you know, and Mike knows, we’ve got a lot of resources from Canada and in U.K. on studies they’ve done there.  But we’re also starting to get feedback from Australia, and Germany, and Sweden, and in places like Jamaica and in every place, in Mumbai, and places are implementing cameras and we want the toolkit not only to be a national resource but to take the best practices from all of the world and put them in one spot.

So that’s pretty much, you know we have some new features coming out that should be out in the next year in the main feedback we took from all those people at the White House and to constantly update and keep your (inaudible) fresh. 

Chip Coldren:  Yes.  I’ll just tell you that what I hear from the sites that I talk to is that it has been tremendously helpful. 

Todd Maxwell: So I appreciate that, that I was talking to – We did a quick search the other day and it turned out to be one of the top hit sites for resources and had the most resources for law enforcement and prosecutors and community, and you know it’s got things from representing you know defense attorneys, ACLU, all different agencies on there.  So in that being like the largest repository of body worn camera documents which is pretty impressive. 

Chip Coldren:  Excellent.  Excellent.  So let’s just talk for a minute about the podcast series itself and you know what was your original thinking about launching this?  And maybe talk a little bit about where you like to see it go next year? 

Todd Maxwell: So the feedback we got was like I said from the White House, and then actually from some social media and Web Site experts was that you always need some new content, something interesting, something that hasn’t been done.  So the podcast was launched as an accompaniment to the podcast series.  And it was something new that BJA was willing to try and do, and something that we put up not only on bja.gov and the podcast series on the toolkit but we also launch an iTunes, we’d get a greater reach out there which is something new for BJA. 

But I think it’s gone over really well and allowed us to do an accompaniment to the podcast or to the toolkit.  Because each time we focus in reference back to the toolkit, but also allows us have diversity of topics and we can hit new and exciting things are happening, new trends that are happening in the market.  And so far this year, we’ve recorded 50 episodes one week.  We commit to do total of 52 so you know, at the anniversary which this will be the anniversary episode.  We’ll have 52 episodes and they’ve covered everything from defense prosecutors, mediums, small, large agencies, ACLU, victims, advocacy, privacy rights.  So we’ve covered the gamut and if you looked at the series and what they’ve covered, it’s quite a bit. 

So I think you know to your question, you’re asking where I like to see it go.  I like to see it the agile and be able to cover new topics are coming out and be able to talk to people about it.  We talked about cloud storage in one episode because agencies were struggling with the ability to do on site storage versus cloud, so we’ve talked about that.  And then one episode, we start talking about officers right to review video before writing a report, so the hot topic.  So I would like to see you know the podcast series continues in a compliment to toolkit and promote the ideas and the values of the talk at BJA and also give information out to law enforcement they are considering policy, and other aspects so they can make a well informed decision on their policy.

And you know another important point is each week when the podcast is launched their social media attached to it.  So it’s setting Twitter and Facebook and all these other areas with reminders of the podcast series but of the toolkit also.  So it always given us fresh content for both sites for the toolkit and the podcast series, so that was the idea behind all of it. 

Chip Coldren: Thank you and that’s actually a point I was going to make it, I’m getting ready to close out this podcast is that this field and this technology is still very young and there’s a lot being learned.  So we can talk about the types of technical assistance that are provided in terms of policy development and procurement and you know, finding storage options working with prosecutors and other criminal justice agencies.

 I think that’s all fairly predictable but the nice thing about this body worn camera technical assistance program is that it is agile.  And the way it stays agile is that we listen to the people who use the toolkit, we listen to the people who come to the podcast, we listen to the people who attend our webinars.  And it’s that interaction that we have with the, you know the agencies and communities out there who have questions and who are coming to us with their emerging questions that we maybe didn’t think off a year or two ago.  That’s the kind of interaction that makes this program very strong and as you said Todd very agile. 

Todd Maxwell: Yes.  

Chip Coldren: Yes, go ahead. 

Todd Maxwell: That’s exactly right, and some of the things that we’re getting request for now end up being around.  We had request not too long for probation and parole that one who use body cameras in jail services, one use body cameras which you know we haven’t focus a whole lot on.  So it gives us a whole opportunity to be able to help. 

Chip Coldren: Absolutely.  Yes, thanks. 

Michael Roosa: If I can fill in as well Chip, if you don’t mind.  I’m sorry.  It’s just, as we get further into this for the 2015 grants, so we’ve done over, we visit of the close of the first year, there has another year going but as BJA collects data, that’s about the grants management.  It’s also data about the implementation, so more content that we expect to see out there on the impact of the grant world having but it’s also that the ability of the BJA providers that collect, I should say the subject matter experts to collect more knowledge about it and keep that forming this information going out.  But kudos to Todd on you know the sphere heading the toolkit and that content gathering and focus so well.  So thank you. 

Chip Coldren: Very good.  So I like to thank you Michael Roosa, Mike White, and Todd Maxwell.  We appreciate hearing from each of you on these questions and I think it’s been a good discussion.  In closing, we encourage law enforcement justice and public safety leaders whose agencies are interested in learning more about the implementation of body worn cameras to visit the body worn camera toolkit at www.bja.gov/bwc.

This toolkit offers a variety of resources that agencies can use to help with adaption and use for community engagement, policy development, data collection, officer training, and educational purposes.  We also encourage listeners to share and promote these resources with your colleagues and staff.  Lastly, all of these resources and especially the body worn camera toolkit have been designed at the national resource, your resource.  Please submit your ideas for new content through the BWC support link at the bottom of the toolkits home page.  This is Chip Coldren of the Body Worn Camera Team, signing off.  Thank you to our listeners for joining us today. 

Date Created: August 10, 2020