A majority of Americans believe the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers can reduce tension in communities, although many still don’t understand how the technology is actually used, according to the results of a new study.
The report — released on Nov. 20 by the research firm YouGov and commissioned by body camera manufacturer Reveal — found that 60 percent of Americans believe the technology can heal rifts between police and the communities they protect. Of that group, 47 percent told researchers they believe tensions would be reduced significantly.
The study also examined the demographics of those who supported the use of body cameras. Researchers found that 66 percent of respondents age 55 or older are in favor of the technology, while 57 percent of millennials surveyed support body cameras.
Additionally, the report shows that 63 percent of women surveyed feel the technology reduces tension in communities, compared to 57 percent of men.
In all, YouGov used a monthlong online survey to poll 1,122 adults on the subject in September. The group weighted the results and believes they’re representative of all American adults.
The report also focuses on the perception of how law enforcement officers use body cameras. Researchers found that 17 percent of respondents incorrectly believe every police force around the country is currently using the technology, while 24 percent believe that the federal government doesn’t support the use of body cameras in general. That finding is particularly noteworthy considering that the Department of Justice awarded $23 million in grants to 73 agencies in 32 states to fund pilot projects for the technology in the same month the study was conducted.
Additionally, 16 percent of respondents think that all body cameras record continuously and can’t be switched off, even though that’s not the case in many departments.
Researchers also attempted to understand how footage from a body camera could affect a jury’s opinion on an incident. Specifically, the survey presented respondents with a hypothetical scenario: If police officers arrest someone they suspect of committing a crime, and both parties claim the other assaulted them, who would you be more likely to be believe?
The report found that, without the benefit of video evidence, 35 percent of respondents would be inclined to believe the officer, and just 10 percent would most likely believe the person arrested.
This research comes after the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a report claiming that the practices of many of the largest police departments using body cameras can lead to civil rights violations.