Body Cameras Do Not Increase Community Trust in Baltimore, New Center for Policing Equity Research Finds

August 24 2018

Body-worn cameras do not increase trust between police and community according to a June study published in the Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

The study, which interviewed a sample of 68 Black residents in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, found that Black residents are unimpressed by body-worn camera initiatives; can be traumatized by the constant violent reminders that the footage often brings; and feel like they are in a “special kind of hell” when faced with the perceived inaction following even the most damning of camera footage evidence.

In the wake of the recent use of force on DaShawn McGrier, the resignation of the involved officer, and frequent reports of concerns within the Baltimore Police Department, the results of this study should inform race relations, police reform and training, police policy, and the future of law enforcement technology. “Body-worn cameras have been touted as a much-needed remedy to address police misconduct and improve accountability to hopefully bring police and community together. Our research, however, suggests that using body-worn cameras to promote these efforts may be misguided, and, worse, harmful to communities,” said Dr. Erin M. Kerrison, lead author of the study and Vice President of Research for Center for Policing Equity.

Respondents were interviewed in June 2015. They were recruited from community events, grassroots rallies, and public meetings to provide a sample of participants deeply engaged in policing reform and concerned about the greater Baltimore community. Respondents were asked open-ended questions to describe their reaction to Freddie Gray’s death, the uprising that followed, and their overall interaction with Baltimore City police officers.

The breakdown of the respondents was as follows:

  • 100% identified as Black or African American
  • 59% were women
  • 40% were employed full-time at the time of the interview
  • 51% reported making less than $10,000 per year
  • The median age was 48.5 years old

    “We launched this study wanting to hear directly from Baltimore residents in the wake of Freddie Gray, and their concerns are loud and clear. They are tired of seeing camera footage. They often relive the initial trauma or hurt they experienced after seeing footage the first time. And, they don’t think camera footage is going to help improve policing,” said Kerrison. “Looking at our national script in response to viral police videos, this makes sense,” said Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, President and Co-Founder of Center for Policing Equity. “Communities are hungry for actual accountability; it’s time for solutions and leadership to reform, rebuild, and re-establish trust. Body worn cameras have a role in policing, but it is important that we don’t inflate that role, overshadowing other reforms we know can make public safety better for everyone.”