Body Worn Cameras: Police Lenses and Public Views

Professor Murray Lee4, Dr Emmeline Taylor5

4University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
5City University of London, London, United Kingdom

Police organisations have embraced the use of body worn cameras (BWC) across an increasing number of jurisdictions. The motivations for this include the collection of video evidence, protecting police from fallacious citizen complaints, transparency in policing, and keeping police accountable for their actions. The logic is that BWC will provide police with a more accurate digital account of events – particularly critical events where police power is exercised. While research with police suggests strong support for the cameras (Clare et al 2019), and our own surveys of police detainees (Lee, Taylor and Willis 2019; Taylor and Lee 2019) also suggest even those more likely to be affected by police power support their use, there is still little research regarding what the general public thinks of the use of the cameras. This paper reports on a survey of 1000 adult Australians who were asked about their views of BWC. While there was general support for the use of BWC, there were important caveats that are reflected in the growing body of critical literature on the topic. Moreover, the growing capabilities of BWC technology opens up questions as to whether the public understands the future implications of embracing police BWC.

Murray Lee is Professor of Criminology, University of Sydney Law School. His research focuses on representations and perceptions of crime and how these lead to criminalisation. He is the co-editor / author of The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime, Inventing Fear of Crime: Criminology and the Politics of Anxiety, co-author of Policing and Media: Public Relations, Simulations and Communications, co-editor of Fear of Crime: Critical Voices in an Age of Anxiety, and editor of the scholarly journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice.

Dr Emmeline Taylor is a Reader in Criminology at City University of London. She has completed empirical research in areas including; surveillance and new technologies, armed robbery, residential burglary, retail crime, and crime and security in education. Dr Taylor is author of Surveillance Schools (Palgrave, 2013); Surveillance Futures (Routledge, 2017, w/T. Rooney); The Palgrave International Handbook of School Discipline, Surveillance, and Social Control (Palgrave, 2018, w/J. Deakin and A. Kupchik); Such is Life: Armed Robbery, Cultural Mythscapes and Affective Transgression (forthcoming); and, Crime, Deviance, and Society: A Sociological Introduction (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, w/ A. Rodas et al.)


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