Panel Paper: Accountability at Its Finest: Front Line Workers Responding to the Use of Body-Worn Cameras

Friday, November 3, 2017
Stetson F (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

James Wright II, American University

“Street-level bureaucrats are the focus of political controversy. They are constantly torn by the demands of service recipients to improve effectiveness and responsiveness and by thedemands of citizen groups to improve the efficacy and efficiency of government services” (Lipsky, 1980: p.4). As Lipsky formulated in his fundamental piece surrounding the role of street level bureaucrats, police officers are constantly under the microscope of the public eye. One result of this constant vigilance of the police force has been the growing negative perception of the police force (James et al. 2015). Previously, to combat negative feelings, police organizations have implemented several policy tools to improve community police relations. These policies include increased minority representation in the police organization (Smith & Holmes, 2003; Theobald & Haider-Marke 2009), requiring police officers to conduct foot or bike patrols (Hawon et al., 2003), and establishing citizen advisory boards (Hudson, 1971).

Recent, incidences of police brutality have received national attention and sparked discourse as well as outrage among various communities. Academics, practitioners, activists, policy makers, and some police departments have streamlined the implementation of BWC technology to combat this negative attention being highlighted. Many have pegged this instrument as the panacea to remedy all problems between communities and police officers.

While this new wave of technology for the police officer is implemented in many departments across the country, little research measures its impact. Lum et al. (2015), identified that the rapid adoption of BWC without high-quality information and its impact can lead to unanticipated and unintended consequences which may work against rebuilding trust between communities and police officers.

The purpose of this study is to examine how the impact of BWC technology influences the amount of crime reported. The data draws from D.C. official crime reporting statistics from 2008-2016. To test the impacts of the implementation of BWC a difference in difference technique is employed. Preliminary findings suggest that there has been an increase in the amount of property crime reported as a direct result of the BWC technology. Additionally, this paper adds to the growing body of knowledge surrounding how street level bureaucrats respond to increased accountability measures, the role of implementation and technological changesin public organizations.