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Survey reveals challenges of body cameras in Spokane Police Department

SPOKANE, Wash. -

For the last two years, researchers from Arizona State University have been following the Spokane Police Department as they implement their use of body cameras. Researchers have been looking into how citizens and officers feel about the cameras. One survey shows, in that time, Spokane Police officers’ perceptions of body cameras improved, and more officers felt the advantages of body cameras were out weighing the disadvantages.

KHQ spoke with one of the researchers, Natalie Todak, who said officers were surveyed before and after they were equipped with body cameras. Beforehand, about 40 percent of officers reported cameras should be expanded to other departments. Afterward, that number jumped to about 54 percent.

In terms of challenges, however, Todak said more officers felt body cameras added to the work load.

“Officers said they thought maybe the cameras might decrease the amount of time they spent on paperwork, but over time once they started wearing them they said no, now it’s a little bit more,” said Todak.

The paperwork wasn’t the only challenge. Before wearing body cameras, 46 percent of officers thought citizens would be more cooperative once an officer wears a body camera. However, once officers did start wearing body cameras, that number dropped to 35 percent. Furthermore, before wearing body cameras, only 8 percent of officers said they thought cameras hurt police community relations. That number changed to 19 percent once officers started wearing body cameras.

Researchers with ASU report they will be done with their project in early 2017. The next phase of their work will look into how body cameras could potentially reduce violence between officers and citizens in general. ASU will look at officer injuries, citizen injuries, citizen complaints, and use of force as part of their research.

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