Race and Policing
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Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are an increasingly common tool for police oversight, accountability, and transparency, yet there remains uncertainty about their impacts on policing outcomes. This paper reviews what we know about the benefits of BWCs and how those benefits compare to the costs of this new technology. We make two contributions relative to existing research. First, we update prior meta-analyses of studies of the impacts of BWCs on policing outcomes to incorporate the most recent, and largest, studies carried out to date in this literature. This additional information provides additional support for the idea that cameras may affect a number of policing outcomes that are important from a social welfare perspective, particularly police use of force. Second, we carry out a benefit-cost analysis of BWCs, as financial barriers are often cited as a key impediment to adoption by police departments. Our baseline estimate for the benefit-cost ratio of BWCs is 4.95. Perhaps as much as one-quarter of the estimated benefits accrue to government budgets directly, which suggests the possibility that this technology could, from the narrow perspective of government budgets, even pay for itself.
This report, based on a survey commissioned by the Alliance for Safety and Justice and released by the National Coalition for Shared Safety (NCSS), offers a sobering assessment of the U.S. government's failure to help address the major issues that fuel cycles of crime and the lack of safety for people across the country. The report raises serious concerns about current public safety spending that has been dominated by $300 billion spent annually on the criminal justice system. The study also demonstrates wide agreement amongst voters across the political spectrum, and in cities, suburbs and rural areas, on where the nation's public safety budget and policy focus should be shifted.
Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how Americans are viewing proposals aimed at addressing policing in the aftermath of the widely covered deaths of several Black people in police custody, as well as widespread protests against racism and excessive use of force by police. For this analysis, 4,708 U.S. adults were surveyed in June 2020. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.
In August 2013, a federal judge found that the New York Police Department (NYPD) had engaged in a widespread practice of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory stops and frisks and ordered a collaborative, joint remedial process (JRP) to develop a set of reforms that will help bring the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices into compliance with the Constitution. The judge highlighted the importance of getting this input, writing at the time, "No amount of legal or policing expertise can replace a community's understanding of the likely practical consequences of reforms in terms of both liberty and safety." The JRP ensures that communities who have been directly affected by these practices will have direct input into shaping the future of stop and frisk in New York. The JRP was envisioned to solicit ideas for additional reforms from communities most impacted by stops and frisks. In addition to community stakeholders, the process will involve the City, members of law enforcement, local elected officials, organizations with expertise in policing and criminal justice attorneys representing the plaintiffs. This process echoes a similar process successfully implemented in Cincinnati, Ohio over a decade ago to address systemic abusive and biased policing practices. Guiding this process is the court-appointed Facilitator, Hon. Ariel Belen.
Although the acrimony between communities of color and law enforcement is currently grabbing news headlines, it is an old story with the seeds of discord planted long ago. The intersection of race and policing and the resulting rancor has roots that can be traced back to the origins of the United States. Therefore, understanding this complicated history and its lingering vestiges is key to finding solutions to the very serious problems that continue to fester today.
How do you measure justice? It is a question that has confounded scholars, activists, and public servants since before it was even asked. Yet, despite the inherent philosophical, methodological, and logistical difficulties, law enforcement executives are increasingly asked to turn over data with the aim of evaluating how fairly they are doing their jobs. Rather than shrink from this task, courageous executives are seeking out partnerships with prominent researchers to solve this riddle and lead policing in the nation with respect to civil rights and public accountability.