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

July 25, 2016 //

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

Researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business 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.

Paul Pavlou
Paul Pavlou
Min-Seok Pang
Min-Seok Pang

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.”

“There is a rush among police departments across the country to incorporate the use of body cameras by their officers, with millions of dollars being spent by federal and local governments,” said Pang, an assistant professor. “Instead, the decisions should be driven by evidence-based policy, and after careful consideration of scientific evidence.”

Click here to read more on their study.

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