Now We Know What Police Body Cams Will Be Used For

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 A police body camera is seen on an officer during a news conference on the pilot program involving 60 NYPD officers dubbed 'Big Brother' at the NYPD police academy in the Queens borough of New York, December 3, 2014.
Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/Corbis

Police body cameras have become the policy of choice after a year of highly publicized deaths at the hands of cops, and now we finally know what the footage will be used for: Researchers at UCLA are being tasked with reviewing tapes from 50 to 100 officers in an attempt to figure out how they diffuse heated situations before they become violent. 

While we focus attention on things that escalated all the way to extreme outcomes, we know a lot less about other events,” said UCLA anthropologist Jeff Brantingham. “Things that went down a dangerous path and ended up being okay. Why did it end up that way? That would provide a huge benefit in terms of training.”

The research is anticipated to be challenging, because typical categorization techniques used for stationary cameras are harder to repurpose for ones whose field of vision changes constantly. Additionally, officers can turn off their cameras whenever they want, potentially leading to gaps in crucial moments. 

Lessons gleaned from this inquiry will be used in police trainings on how to, um, not let things get out of hand. Hopefully, they’ll also be allowed as evidence in court if things do turn sour.