Study: Smart technology – and not body cameras – more likely to reduce use of lethal force by police

November 17th, 2016 //

When it comes to reducing instances of lethal force exhibited by police, a recent study by Fox School of Business researchers suggests that wearable video cameras might not be the solution.

The researchers found that the use of analytics and smartphones to access intelligence, like criminal history reports, reduced instances of lethal force by police, while wearable video cameras were linked to increases in shooting deaths of civilians by police.

Dr. Min-Seok Pang and Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, from the Fox School of Business, utilized data from a comprehensive report by the Washington Post, to investigate how technology affects police performance and practice. The newspaper’s 2015 database compiled information from the 986 deadly shootings of civilians by police nationwide in 2015, from published news reports, public records, Internet databases, and original reporting.

Their study, titled “Armed with Technology: The Effects on Fatal Shootings of Civilians by the Police,” found that the use of body cameras by police led to a 3.64-percent increase in shooting deaths of civilians by police. Notably, body cameras produced a 3.75-percent increase in the shooting deaths of African Americans and Hispanics, but only a 0.67-percent increase in the deaths of Caucasians and Asians.

Meanwhile, instances of fatal shootings dropped by 2.5 percent when police departments conducted statistical analyses of digitized crime data or had real-time access to data via smartphones and information about a person of interest, the researchers found.

“Our findings suggest that body cameras generate less reluctance for police officers to use lethal force, because the wearable body cameras provide evidence that may justify the shooting and exonerate an officer from prosecution,” said Pavlou, the Fox School’s Milton F. Stauffer Professor of Information Technology and Strategy. “Instead, the use of data analytics and smartphones can reduce the use of lethal force by police.”