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Public Policy and Administration


John M. Walker


Body-worn camera (BWC) use in the application of the law enforcement function has become a novelty during the last few years in the United States. BWCs are being implemented in localities without adequate research about community perceptions. Moreover, very few studies have been conducted about the perceptions of community members in a particular area about these devices. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to better understand the perceptions and beliefs of community members from different backgrounds about BWCs. The research questions entailed learning about current perceptions regarding BWCs and how these devices impact trust, safety, and accountability. Social constructivism developed by Vygotsky was the theoretical framework selected built on the premise that an individual learns through social contact and the idea that perceptions eventually become reality. Social contact and interactions where law enforcement is portrayed in a negative light can have a lifelong effect on an individual. The city selected for the study has a diverse demographic that includes both higher and lower income neighborhoods. Thirty participants between the ages of 25 and 64 were interviewed. This qualitative case study was crafted with the intent to obtain intimate insight from multiple perspectives in the community. Findings were that the current perception of BWCs were positive for most of the participants. Findings showed that BWCs impacted trust, safety, accountability, and the future of policing in an overall beneficial manner for both police and community members. Implications for positive social change include the community having their voices heard, providing ideas for best practices while the police will craft BWC policies supported by both parties.

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