Police-worn body cameras not panning out

As more and more police departments adopt policies to have officers wear body cameras to record interactions with the public, the research evidence continues to build on the effects of the technology — and it’s not yielding the sort of findings many had expected.

The latest report, a review of 70 studies conducted by researchers at George Mason University, says there is mixed evidence of the benefit of cameras in reducing officer use of force, one of the main impacts many had expected. “There is an incongruence between people’s expectations of cameras, police expectations of cameras, and what they think they’re being used for,” Cynthia Lum, a co-author of the report tells Governing magazine.  

CommonWealth reported three years that evidence of the benefits of body cameras was far from conclusive. Underscoring how complicated the issue is, the story reported that there have been studies suggesting police use of body cameras may increase the likelihood of an officer being assaulted — perhaps because the cameras further provoke someone the officer is already having a confrontation with. While some studies have shown a decrease in officer use of force with civilians when wearing cameras, other studies have pointed to the opposite finding — showing a greater likelihood of police using force when wearing cameras.

Indeed, a study of all officer-involved fatal shootings in the US in 2015 found that police who were wearing cameras were slightly more likely to kill a civilian than those not wearing them. The authors speculate that knowledge that there will be video evidence could make an officer more likely to use deadly force in a case where he or she believes it’s justified but might otherwise have exercised restraint because of concern over the results of a follow-up inquest without such evidence.

Earlier this month, Springfield police supervisors reached a tentative agreement with the city on a new contract that includes use of body cameras. Springfield’s patrol officers’ union agreed last year to a new contract that calls for use of cameras by members.

Meanwhile, full deployment of cameras among Boston police officers, which a citizen group from the city’s black community has been pushing for several years, is on its way. A little over a year ago, researchers released the results from the pilot study of body cameras with Boston police. The findings pointed to a small benefit in terms of a reduction in citizen complaints about police conduct, while there was no apparent effect of cameras on police use of force against civilians.

Clearly, there are cases where camera evidence can serve as a check on possible police misconduct. Though the case doesn’t involve body-worn cameras, charges filed recently against three MBTA officers related to the beating of a homeless man at a Red Line station largely hinge on the availability of surveillance video from the station. As this CommonWealth look at the proliferation of surveillance video reported, T stations and buses are probably the most intensively surveilled public spaces in Greater Boston when it comes to video recording.

The new George Mason University review, however, said body camera recordings are being used far more often as part of the prosecution of cases against people police have arrested than to support misconduct charges against officers.

As Alex Sutherland, a researcher from RAND Corporation told CommonWealth three years ago about the findings from body camera studies, “the results aren’t as clear-cut as people might have assumed.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Senate President Karen Spilka is naming a working group of outside experts to examine the state’s tax system, a move that could be a prelude to a proposal for new tax revenue. Her timetable is vague, but could be as long as two years. (Boston Globe)

For Donald Trump fanboy and Charlie Baker nemesis Howie Carr it was the last straw: The Herald columnist says nothing shows Baker’s true colors as a closet Democrat more than his reluctance to comment on the Mueller findings until the full report is released.

Baker pours cold water on the idea of bringing back rent control. (Boston Globe)

A doctor and a terminally ill patient are suing Attorney General Maura Healey in court in a bid to legalize physician-assisted suicide, but Healey says it’s a legislative — not a legal — issue. (MassLive)

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would set a minimum age of 18 to get married. More than 1,000 children younger than 18, most of them girls, got married in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2014. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Jasiel Correia II says police are working to find the vandals of a Jewish cemetery in Fall River, which had dozens of gravestones defaced with anti-Semitic symbols and phrases over the weekend. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Congressman Stephen Lynch wants to see as much as he can of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but he is not on board with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler’s approach of issuing subpoenas and document requests to 81 people. (WGBH)

ELECTIONS

Without retinue or much Republican support, Bill Weld is forging ahead with his exploratory campaign to challenge President Trump in the primary. (WBUR)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s campaign operation has spent nearly $900,000 on services from a fund-raising and consulting firm that employs his girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins. (Boston Globe)

Dan Koh, a Democrat who was Walsh’s chief of staff before running for Congress, has won a seat on the Andover Board of Selectmen where he will be colleagues with Alex Vispoli, a Republican who has run for state Senate. (Eagle-Tribune)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Cape Cod continues to bleed families with school-age children — and local leaders are worried about it. (Boston Globe)

The lights are back on at the Berkshire Mall, with the owner blaming recent outages on the power company and the power company saying its equipment is working fine. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Paul Sagan, the chairman of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who drew criticism for his hefty donations to the 2016 ballot question proposing an expansion of charter schools, is stepping down after four years. Board member Katherine Craven will take the reins as new chair. (Boston Globe)

Kristin Harrison and Calvin McFadden say charter schools are also looking for a funding fix to the state’s education aid formula. (CommonWealth)

Dennis-Yarmouth Educators Association President Michelle Dunn says teachers are frustrated by increased demands by the district, even while contract negotiations have stretched seven months beyond the intended deadline. Teachers picketed outside schools before classes Monday. (Cape Cod Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Two girls, 5 and 7, find a syringe on the playground of the Gibbs Middle School in Arlington and accidentally stick themselves after picking it up. (MassLive)

Mark Eisenberg, Bill Fried, and Jim Stewart praise the work of the Harm Reduction Commission and its support for supervised drug consumption sites. (CommonWealth)

Officials in Rockland County, which covers an area of New York City’s northern suburbs, banned any child under 18 who has not been vaccinated for measles from visiting a public gathering spot. The action was prompted by a measles outbreak that has infected 150 people since last fall. (Associated Press)

ARTS/CULTURE

With rock from Franklin Park, Spectacle Island, and Boston University, sculptors are working on tributes to the three people killed by bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The project is now expected to be completed this summer. (Associated Press)

TRANSPORTATION

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak says the recently announced campaign to spruce up stations is part of an overall effort to woo back riders who may have abandoned the beleaguered system. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Pittsfield City Council approves a ban on single-use plastic bags but permits the use of degradable bags. (Berkshire Eagle)

Barnstable Town Council President James Crocker is slamming Mashpee’s state-approved comprehensive wastewater management plan, calling it “phony” and “not legit,” and said the town had “failed to make any of the phases” since the plan was approved in 2015. (Cape Cod TImes)

NOAA Fisheries and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reached a formal agreement with a fishing industry group to ensure seafood harvesters have a say in the development of the offshore wind industry. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A Globe editorial says the state should not even consider the idea of adding a fourth region for a full casino with fears of market oversaturation already an issue.

The Lynn City Council approves a pot shop that could provoke a legal challenge from Saugus because part of the shop’s parking lot is in the neighboring community. (Daily Item)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Two days after a sympathetic Globe profile of Robert Kraft with testimonials to his good character from everyone from a kindergarten classmate who’s been a lifelong friend to former advertising honcho Jack Connors, the Globe has an op-ed by the Florida sheriff, William Snyder, who helped direct the investigation that led to charges against Kraft in which he argues the spa where prosecutors say the Patriots owner paid for sex was a human trafficking operation and that it’s important to hold buyers accountable for enabling such exploitation.

In the liberal bastion of Northampton, it isn’t easy being a police officer. (CommonWealth)

A Herald editorial slams Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins over the policy memo she released this week instructing staff members to alert her directly if they observe federal immigration officials questioning or arresting anyone in or near county courthouses.

Judge Heidi Brieger sentenced former State Trooper Robert Sundberg III to 10 to 15 years in prison for rape and assault of his ex-girlfriend, a fellow trooper who lives in fear and called him a “predator.” (Lowell Sun)

A retired MBTA police officer and two supervisors pleaded not guilty to charges they covered up the beating of a homeless man at a T station. (Boston Herald)

The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that Marshfield police did not violate a suspect’s constitutional rights by looking up data from a court-ordered GPS device he was allegedly wearing while breaking into several homes on the South Shore. (Patriot Ledger)

A nurse is suing Dr. Hooshang D. Poor of Newton for allegedly groping her from behind while she was working at the Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Tower Hill Nursing Home in Canton in September 2016. In another legal situation, Poor agreed to pay $680,000 to resolve allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. (Patriot Ledger)

Police release video showing the shot fired in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Natick. The video shows a man frantically pushing through the front door of the hotel chased by a gunman who fires one shot from just outside the door and then flees. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

New research indicates the loss of local newspapers is prompting more and more people to rely on polarized national news coverage, which tends to lead to more polarization in voting patterns. (Scientific American)