After the Webinar: Making Sense of the Current State of Body Worn Camera Research. Q&A with Dr. Janne Gaub

Webinar presenter Dr. Janne Gaub answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Making Sense of the Current State of Body-Worn Camera Research. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question:  You shared a percentage about the distribution of the sizes of different agencies, how big agencies are. I think you were talking in the methodological issues area. What were those percentages again? 

Janne Gaub: Were they talking about the diffusion of body cameras, the percentage of agencies that have body cameras? Is that what they’re asking?

Host: The different sizes of agencies so like X percent of the agencies in the US are this size X percent are this size. (51:56)

Janne Gaub: Oh. Okay. I think I said it in. Actually, my number actually comes from the 2013 LEMAS. I don’t think they’ve changed all that much in the 2016 LEMAS. So, the main report for the 2016 LEMAS is by Shelley Highland. You can find that on the Bureau of Justice Statistics website, but I can give you the numbers. It’s roughly 93% of agencies have 100 or fewer sworn personnel and about 90% of agencies have 50 or fewer agents, sworn personnel. Again, those are from the 2013 LEMAS, but I believe they’re pretty close in the 2016 LEMAS.


Audience Question: Are you aware of any studies that take a look at the actual cost of cameras to include the initial cost of equipment, the ongoing cost of storage with the vendor, and the cost of responding to public records requests? 

Janne Gaub:  So, the only study that I’m aware of that has looked at like a cost-benefit analysis is Las Vegas Metro. So, Las Vegas Metro Police did a cost-benefit analysis and I do know that it’s available on the TTA website so you can find it there, but Las Vegas Metro did a whole analysis, they had an economist so not as crazy criminologists doing it. They had an economist who did it and they actually looked at the cost like asked, the cost of the startup of the actual cameras, right the cost of the camera itself, which is not the expensive part as everybody knows. The expensive part is the storage and so they did account for the storage. It was not like a long-term cost-benefit analysis. So obviously, you know, the longer you have to hold on to footage you know, that the storage grows exponentially and so then the cost grows a bit too. So, this one, it wasn’t like it was a five-year cost-benefit analysis or anything like that. It was a limited range, but it did account for that. It also looked at the cost of training. It included the costs associated with I believe they included public records requests in there. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at it and they also looked at because it was cost-benefit, they also looked at the cost savings of for example like citizen complaints being able to resolve citizen complaints more quickly. And so, you know time savings that their investigators didn’t have to spend investigating these complaints or complaints that didn’t become realized right? It’s hard to measure a negative but it did take that into account. They actually found that there was a cost-saving. I believe it was in the order of – it was I think it was a couple of million dollars that they saved because in and they attributed it mostly to the number of complaints, the reduction in citizen complaints and the amount of time that they’re investigators did not have to spend on that. Now a true cost-benefit analysis really should take into account other components as well, right? So, looking further down the criminal justice system, right, into courts. What are the cost and benefits for prosecutors and public defenders and the court system? Even, I mean and as agencies have had cameras for longer, you can even look at the impact on corrections and things like that. So, I mean you can certainly look a bit longer, but the only one that I’m aware of is Las Vegas Metro. It’s something that we actually need more of.



Audience Question:  Are body-worn cameras capable of capturing data that are beyond normal human physiology? If so, does it make sense not to let the officer see a video before questioning in order to record only what the officer perceived unaided by the technology? 

Janne Gaub: Two very good questions. So, to answer the first part is it capable of seeing things that the officer cannot see. The answer is and, remember, there are dozens of models on the market so I wasn’t trying to do product placement with any of my videos, most of them, or any of my photos, is the most of them are Axons, simply because it’s what most people use. You saw a few other ones. Most of those cameras especially the ones that are used by most agencies, most cameras, at least now have at least an option to be able to see things that the officer would not be able to see so some of them have options for say night vision or infrared or things like that. A lot of agencies are actually starting to not use those because they don’t think it’s fair to for example when this is used as evidence, right and then it’s presented and then the jury looks at it. Well clearly that’s you know, XYZ, right? Like how did the officer not see that? Well, it’s because the officers not wearing night-vision goggles. Like of course, he couldn’t see that right? So, they felt like it wasn’t fair to let the video show something that the officer wouldn’t fairly be able to see. It really because the intention of a body-worn camera is to give the officer’s perspective, then a lot of agencies to felt that that’s not fair. It’s unfair to the officer to then demonstrate, hey, there are other things going on that this officer is not able to see. But that said, the footage is still I mean it will probably capture things that you know, the officer may not see due to tunnel vision or just you know. I mean, we can’t capture everything and then record it in our memory, write everything that we can take in. So, while there’s varying and remember there’s also varying range of view, right? So, the number of degrees of range of view is not quite what a human eye is. Some of them are close but usually, humans can see a little bit more. So you miss out on some of that peripheral vision, that’s one of the things officers will bring up is you know, what we see things in our peripheral vision or we turn our head and you know, a chest-mounted camera isn’t going to be able to see if we’re turning our head, you know, we’ll be able to see things the camera won’t necessarily see. But in the question of whether or not to let an officer see the footage before they fill out a report or things like that, is a hot question right now and I don’t have a good answer for that. There’s been a little bit of research on that actually should have included it because that’s actually an up-and-coming area of research is about memory and how does that affect memory and there’s some research that indicates that the footage will actually change how they remember what they saw. So, and they’ll look at the footage, and then they can’t distinguish what they saw on the footage that they didn’t originally see with how they actually remember it. And so there’s a little bit of research that’s pointing in that direction which would indicate maybe we shouldn’t let them watch footage because you know, you’re going to alter what they actually remember but some other researchers talking about well, maybe we should let officers view it if the intention is we want to get the best report possible, right? We know that people can’t see everything and so if they’re can go in and look and say hey, this is what happened and you know, you can get quotes exactly right? Like you remember basically what the person said, but you don’t remember exactly what the person said. You can write it down exactly. Right? Then you have more accurate report writing and so there those are kind of the two sides, and there’s no right answer to whether or not you should do it. The big question is whether you let him watch it before you take their statement for critical incidents. And that’s a whole other ball of wax, because those are much more complicated but I don’t know that I would be comfortable saying should they because I think there are good arguments on both sides and it’s I’m going to default to the classic academic answer of until we have more research that really understands how these mechanisms play, I wouldn’t be comfortable giving an answer one way or the other. I think I think agencies need to work with their officers to know what is it that they’re trying to accomplish by letting them look at footage first or not look at footage first like. A lot of officers when they think when they hear they’re not allowed to look at footage first, they think that they’re trying to be trapped right like being caught that they’re lying. And they’re like we’re not lying, we just didn’t notice it right or we just couldn’t remember exactly what they said. So some of them say, you know, well if I can see the footage I can write down exactly, you know the exact quote or I can use more precise language rather than being having it used to trip me up and try to make me look bad when it wasn’t my intention at all. So, I think it just depends on the agency at this point until we have more research.



Audience Question:  What would the approximate cost of a third party such somebody like yourself to conduct an assessment of the context of the agency considering doing a body-worn camera program? 

Janne Gaub: I was not expecting that question.

Host:  It would be also the element of I mean there’s certainly academics but then there’s also the BJA program the technical support folks as well. Right?

Janne Gaub: Yes, so the training and technical assistance people if you apply for a grant with TTA and I don’t mean this is like a pitch for them or anything but if you apply for them that kind of gets covered. They actually have a scorecard for policy and the first part of it kind of goes through that kind of runs through that like, you know, did you talk to these people and that kind of helps you figure out your local contacts. If you really are having trouble trying to figure out the local context and how this might help, you know, reaching out to an academic might help. I couldn’t give you I mean it would literally be enough to cost guesstimate. It would really depend on what you’re looking for and things like that. But you know, if you have an academic nearby, you know an agency and institution nearby or you have connections, you know, you can certainly contact them and say is anyone available to do this, about how much would it cost? It really depends on the institution because there are lots of rules governing different things, but it would not be – I think if it were me, I would say that it’s cheaper to do that and do it right and do the process correctly than to do it wrong and then have a lot of other problems later on that you have to try and tease out.

Host: It totally makes sense and what I might do is so when I hook up with you afterward and get the other links we were talking about maybe get a link for that BJA grant as well as then as folks are sure if you emailed if you email Jan or if you emailed us and we can forward it on to Jan. I’m sure Jan you between you and Michael White, I’m sure you guys have contacts throughout the United States who of people that you think –

Janne Gaub: A lot of places. Yeah, we can certainly work it out. And the TTA program does give training and technical assistance to anybody not just to grantees. So, you know, if you have specific questions, you can also go through that website. So, I’ll provide all of those websites, but absolutely feel free to email me and I’m happy to you know, talk through specifics with anybody. But it’s not, I mean it’s not exorbitantly expensive, but it is something that’s going to be a chunk of change. I mean, I don’t know it’s hard to hard to say right off the bat, but it would just be, and it depends on what you’re looking for too. You know, looking at just the context there’s going to be more to it than that and you know, you might say well why don’t we just have them do our evaluation or things like that? Then it becomes a different issue.



Audience Question:  Knowing that a chunk of our audience is either in the planning stages or considering body-worn cameras what are some of the things these agencies really should keep in mind as they’re building out their programs? 

Janne Gaub: Excellent question so if you are considering the age of body-worn camera program or in the kind of planning phase, the number one thing that I hear from agencies and I’ve talked to a lot of them the number one thing they will tell you is don’t buy the cheapest option. Just like we kind of do it like even when I’m doing stuff on my house right, we do the same thing we get lots of quotes, and you kind of pick the one in the middle maybe right? You know get a lot of different options and don’t just zero in on one vendor get. Try to really get a good solid procurement process can really help because sometimes the ones that are a little bit more expensive while they’re more expensive, they may give you a lot of time-saving things at the end of the day. I know a lot of agencies that will choose vendors that you know already if they have in-car cameras, for example, they and their vendor for their In-car camera have body cameras, they might use both of them because then or use that vendor for both because then they can kind of consolidate something right. Don’t necessarily just go for the cheapest choice because it’s the least expensive and I know that we’re all, with COVID and everything, we’re all kind of entering into this period of at least semi austerity. But it’s important to do if you’re going to do it, to do it right because it’s really expensive to then turn around and say yeah, we’re not going to do it. There are a fair number of agencies that have said, “Hey, those are just getting too expensive and we just can’t do this anymore.” A lot of vendors do have the option also of not just doing cloud-based storage but doing local storage. So, if you’re a small agency, in particular, I work with agencies that are like 10 or 11 people. They’re like, we don’t have enough footage really to have to worry about doing cloud storage. That’s a little bit more expensive, you know. We’re able to just store it locally and that’ll be a huge cost-saving if you can store it locally. The other thing that I would say is to be very aware of what your state and local requirements are. Some states have rules, you know mandating that if you have cameras, then you have to put them on every one of us, right? Or if you do if you have a camera, they meant mandate that everybody has to have cameras or whatever. Just knowing whatever your state or local legislation is related to body cameras. It’s huge because I know agencies that won’t get them because they’re like, well if we do then we have to do all these things because the legislature passed a law, right? So, just knowing what the rules are I guess is really important and I’m always amazed, you know, like my students a lot of people don’t look at the thing look at stuff until they’re like, you know pretty far along in the process and they’re like, “Oh wait, well now we have to do this and we have to deal with that”. And things like retention. I worked with an agency in Arizona and Arizona required I think it’s changed now, but at the time all evidence for a felony had to be retained for 99 years. They were like, “We have to retain all the footage for every felony for 99 years?” So, all of the agencies said, “Whoa”, and they went to you know went to the records folks at the state level and they said, you know for photos or whatever that’s fine. But you know, we can’t do this for body cameras. So, they ended up getting I think they were trying to work for an exemption I should say for body camera footage that you know, you didn’t have to do it keep the actual original file on the Cloud Server whatever for 99 years. I mean they were like we would not be able to do this but there’s no way that we would be able to afford to store it for that long. So just knowing those kinds of state-level rules that might be kind of weird and buried you know, various places are things to keep in mind as well all. So those are probably the two biggest things. The other thing is to ask around because I could guarantee, almost guarantee that someone around you like some agency around you has either looked into cameras or has cameras or is getting cameras and you don’t reinvent the wheel, right? Like look, ask around for other people’s policies and start from there. You know like I said, there’s a policy scorecard. It’ll give you kind of issues to look at, right? It’s not going to tell you how to do it, like for example citizen notification. They’re not going to tell you should have you know, you should have to have your officers notify citizens that you’re recording or you or you definitely shouldn’t like they’re not going to tell you that. But they’ll say hey you should have something about citizen notification. This is an important issue and you should include in your policy. So, it’s a good checklist to go through and say,  “Oh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. We should make sure to put that in.” Don’t reinvent the wheel kind of look around poke around find model policies. The policy is the biggest one where people tend to try to start from scratch. Training is the same. there are training curriculums available in various places and so looking at the training that other people are doing is really helpful so that you’re not again reinventing the wheel.



Audience Question:  How much success have defense attorneys had in court if they allege officers should not have turned off the body-worn cameras, like when dealing with a vulnerable victim? What does your research say, or have you researched this area?

Janne Gaub: So that’s a great question. Actually recently when I said that I did some evaluations of the impact of body cameras on the courtroom workgroup, I’ve done some work with the public with public defenders and I’ve asked them that question, how easily can you say, well, hey they shouldn’t have turned this off, you know in lots of different scenarios, right? Like why’d they turn that off you or now the big thing is not necessarily turning the camera off but like muting right because they can mute the camera. So, they were like, but we can’t hear anything. We can’t hear are you Mirandizing our clients, or you know, all these things, right? And so, they said that there was kind of a mixed bag as to whether or not they were able to really use that as anything to get, you know, get a charge thrown out or things like that. It was kind of and there’s not a lot of research on that from the defense side. Predominantly research has focused on policing I mean by and large policing and then when it’s looked Into the courts’ area, it’s either been on court processes. So, like, you know kind of quantitative measures of how long it takes cases to go through the process things like that or it’s focused on prosecutors. It makes sense police and prosecutors work together for the state, right? From the defense side, there’s not a whole lot. In empirical research, now that’s not necessarily true in legal research like law reviews and things like that and I don’t spend as much time going through that research. It’s difficult in a lot of jurisdictions for defense attorneys to use, hey, they turned the camera off or hey, they muted the camera as a reason, right? Because if the policy permits them to do it, they’re not going against policy and almost always, the judge will simply say well we’ve had lots of cases where you know, we have we’ve done this for centuries before we had body cameras. You know, we don’t need the video if the officer is saying that this is what happened. This is what happened, right. They kind of revert to what was the status quo before we had body cameras. Rather than being able to use that and say wait a minute why they turn the camera off like what did they do that they didn’t want on camera right? Then, it’s a little bit more difficult to use that because there’s this kind of reversion back to well we’ve done this for a long time without cameras and it doesn’t matter now. So anecdotally, that’s what I’m hearing from a lot of defense attorneys. I mean not that that’s not true for every judge, but it definitely is not as it’s not the silver bullet a lot of people were hoping it would be. Like, hey, they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, right if you can clearly show that they went against the policy, you might have more luck like they turned it off when they weren’t supposed to, then you might have some more luck. A lot of policies almost every policy I’ve seen in the last couple of years has had some sort of discretion related to you know vulnerable population things like that, like sexual assault victims, child victims, you know victims who are like nude, you know, you don’t want them on video, that kind of thing. So, you know, they’re allowed to turn it off and then turn it back on. And so, then it’s hard but we don’t know what the person said. We don’t know any of this, you know, what else happened during this encounter. They’ll just say well we’ve done this for four years with decades right centuries without video and so we don’t need it now. Unfortunately, I wish it was different.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Making Sense of the Current State of Body-Worn Camera Research.


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