IACP Quick Take: When should you view your body cam footage?

The body camera will pick up things that you missed, and likewise you will see things the camera can't capture


Here’s a quick summary of the IACP 2014 session, “Body cam versus officer recall” by Dr. Donald Dawes and Dr. Jeffrey Ho:

Quick Summary:
Dr. Dawes and Dr. Ho, who are both also reserve deputies, conducted an experiment in order to analyze how much officers can recollect of an incident when writing a report after different factors such as stress, fatigue and time come into play.

During the test the doctors conducted, 11 officers role played three typical scenarios back-to-back and then were asked to write incident reports for all three. They then watched the body cam footage of those incidents and were able to edit their reports with their changes tracked so they could see how many changes were made and how drastic the changes were.

3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Multiple studies on the effects of exertion show that exertion not only affects an officer’s ability to recall what happened after an incident, but also before.
  2. It’s a natural human reaction to fill in the gaps when we can’t recollect every moment of an incident. Officers often fill in the gaps when they cannot recall every detail with what they think happened.
  3. The 11 officers were graded on the size of their errors: Minor, moderate, and major. On average, each officer made 2.63 minor errors, 5.4 moderate errors, and one major error. (Major errors included misreporting significant statements, misreporting the presence of a gun, omitting dangerous behaviors, and dispatch communication errors). 

Other Observations:
In a mock domestic violence call, all 11 officers missed the presence of a gun that appeared on a coffee table in the room during the scenario and after watching the body cam footage.

The purpose of the test was to see how much of a role fatigue and stress contributed to an officer’s ability to accurately report and the advantage of being able to view body cam footage immediately after an incident and as many times as necessary to deliver a detailed report.

Most of the officers in the experiment agreed that having access to that footage every time they’re writing an incident report would be a great advantage, however some were concerned that it would increase the amount of time it takes to write a report. Another concern was that officers may have to reconcile their perspective with the perspective of the video, fearing that factors like angle and lighting can cause camera footage to inaccurately portray details of an incident.

A third concern with officers was that video from body cameras could be overused for their own discipline.

The same inaccuracies brought on by fatigue and exertion are observed among EMTs and medical staff as well. 

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