Efficacy of Body-Worn Technology to Prevent Upticks in Racial Profiling and Unlawful Searches Examined

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By Amy Fullerton and Stacie Guevara

NEW YORK, NY – In lieu of the federal court settlement Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., the New York Police Dept. has experimentally implemented body-worn technology to address the problem of unlawful searches, frisks and seizures.

Floyd, et al. v. City of New York was a 2013 class action lawsuit against the City of New York for the unlawful and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policies that disproportionately harmed people of minority groups.

Floyd argued that the City of New York and the NYPD were complacent in the racial profiling of minorities during a large number of traffic stops.

In an educational article written by Anthony A. Braga, John M. Macdonald and James McCabe, efficacy of body-worn technology preventing additional unlawful searches, frisks, and seizures was examined.

Body-worn cameras have become a staple in American police reform to hold police departments across the country accountable to the actions of their officers. As found in the study done by Braga et al., the presence of body-worn cameras has decreased civilian complaints about unlawful treatment of officers by 21 percent.

As of November 2021, those who had filed the suit believe the agreement is in danger of falling apart as those enforcing reform policies fail to discuss the changes with target populations.

As told to The Intercept, Darius Charney, a lawyer who worked on the Floyd suit and a member of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “We cannot have meaningful and lasting change if the only people in the room are lawyers, police executives and academics.”

In the article written by Braga et al., a controlled trial took place involving 40 police precincts and 3,889 NYPD officers. This study evaluated the effects of body-worn cameras and how it impacts outcomes of police work activity, civility and lawfulness.

In the study, citizen complaints against police officers equipped with body cameras were reduced by just over 20 percent. Compared to control officers, treatment officers filed almost 39 percent more stop reports.

In an article on The Intercept by Nick Pinto, it’s explained that the landmark federal court ruling was made in 2013, and at the peak of stop-and-frisk in 2011, the NYPD made about 686,000 stops with only six percent of those stops resulting in arrest. Ninety percent of those stops were of people of color.

The article explains Judge Shira Scheindlin’s 2013 ruling, and how Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to thoroughly examine its policies and practices to “end its race-based mass stop-and-frisks.” This was what made the NYPD adopt body cameras.

The results of the study by Braga et al. found that treatment stop reports tend to involve minority subjects and were less likely to involve arrests. It was also found that these treatment stops were less likely to meet constitutional justifications for stops, frisks and searches.

The final results of the study suggested that if NYPD officers wore body cameras, they would be more likely to comply with mandating and documenting all stops, and this can also be used to address unlawful policing by monitoring troublesome encounters between citizens and police.


About The Author

Amy is a junior at UCSB triple majoring in Psychology and Brain Sciences, Communication, and Political Science. She is from Redwood City, California.

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