Journal Article

Eyes are not Cameras: The Importance of Integrating Perceptual Distortions, Misinformation, and False Memories into the Police Body Camera Debate

Scott W. Phillips

in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice

Volume 12, issue 1, pages 91-99
Published in print March 2018 | ISSN: 1752-4512
Published online March 2016 | e-ISSN: 1752-4520 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/police/paw008
Eyes are not Cameras: The Importance of Integrating Perceptual Distortions, Misinformation, and False Memories into the Police Body Camera Debate

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Abstract

Questions about police officer behaviour, particularly officer-involved shootings, have contributed to the argument that street-level police officers should wear body cameras. The assumption is that a body camera will provide an objective reality of what occurred during an encounter. Absent from the discussion is the notion of perceptual distortion, misinformation, and the development of false memories. This article provides an examination of how these psychological dimensions can impact a police officer’s decision-making as well as their ability to accurately recall the details of an incident. It is argued here that while a body camera video may provide accurate documentation of an event, it is reasonable to argue that what the officer sees may not match objective reality because of perceptual distortions. Further, deviations between objective reality and officer recall does not equate to lying, a cover-up, or a ‘rogue’ officer.

Journal Article.  4654 words. 

Subjects: Policing ; Criminology ; Forms of Crime

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