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Community Perceptions: Procedural Justice, Legitimacy and Body-worn Cameras

NCJ Number
Policing-an International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 43 Issue: 3 Dated: 2020 Pages: 495-509
Paige S. Thompson; Bryce E. Peterson; Daniel S. Lawrence
Date Published
15 pages
This study examined community members' perceptions of the Milwaukee Police Department's (MPD's) body-worn camera (BWC) program, focusing on their knowledge and support of the program and its impact on their views of procedural justice and legitimacy.
A two-wave, online survey was administered to Milwaukee-area residents in the fall of 2017 and summer of 2018, yielding 1,527 respondents. Multivariate regression analyses focused on overall relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, community member knowledge of the program, procedural justice, and legitimacy and support for BWCs. The survey responses indicated that community members were supportive of BWCs and viewed officers as procedurally just and legitimate; however, perceptions were significantly lower among Black respondents. Respondents with knowledge of the BWC program were more likely to view officers as procedurally just, but program knowledge did not increase support for it. A discussion of the limitations and implications of this research notes that police agencies may benefit from improving community awareness of their BWC program, since knowledge of the program was positively linked to the views of departmental procedural justice and legitimacy; however, education efforts alone are not sufficient to improve police-community relations. Future research should examine how policing stakeholders can engage the community to build views of legitimacy associated with BWC. (publisher abstract modified)