This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Police Action/Inaction

"One of the first few shifts when I went out on the road with the officers, I was struck by this new atmosphere of policing. The public now is much more engaged in policing. There's much more criticism of police tactics."
"Police are not oblivious to these developments. There's quite a strong disciplining influence that's present in officers' consciousness when they go out to do their work."
Greg Brown, Ottawa Police Services veteran

The 50-yer-old man who had been on a desk job for years was recently returned to patrol work after his 16 years on administrative work with the Ottawa police. He is also, incidentally a doctoral candidate with Carleton University who made a study of police consciousness of citizen-recorded video and the use of social media to register concerns about police actions. He interviewed front-line police in both Ottawa and Toronto to get a narrative feel about his own impressions from others.

Of the 231 police officers he surveyed almost three-quarters reported behavioural changes resulting from awareness of being watched, their actions recorded on video by private citizens. Approximately half of the respondents declared less use of physical force, less frequently as a result; feeling restrained by circumstances that meant whatever they would do, could be captured on video and complicate their professional lives.

The study completed, it was published this month by Oxford University Press in the British Journal of Criminology Advance Access. The conclusion that Mr. Brown reached is concerning, leading to his belief that police officers may, as a result of this acute awareness be placing themselves and/or the public in potential danger by responding to situations through "risk-averse policing" in an effort to avoid negative attention.

Everything shows up on the Internet inevitably in these days of heightened scrutiny and downloading on various social media sites. Reputations and careers are bashed and destroyed, and no one looks forward to being the subject of public opprobrium and being accused of professional misconduct, and becoming the subject of special reviews which in the end, damn their actions and reactions to situations.

This empirical study of the manner in which the public use of smartphones and YouTube documenting police incidents has had its effect on police with high-profile police controversies making headlines across North America is revealing. Officers admit to this new awareness being top of mind now while conducting police work; many had stated they had been recorded on video by private citizens on an average of 17 times during their careers.

Officer Brown feels the situation has its positive points with police feeling more accountable, less likely to use excessive force. On the negative side of the ledger, however, if they're exercising an attitude of "forget it, drive on", the consequences can be serious with police feeling hindered in their capacity to conduct their work well and safely and the public weal will suffer.

Another study is being projected beyond Ontario to encompass more of Canada, and into the United States, with 14 major police agencies in Canada and five in New York having signed up to give their input into an vastly extended study, anticipated for a 2018 completion.

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