The USF criminology department recently partnered with the Orlando Police Department to conduct a study that will equip officers with personal cameras intended to monitor police and suspect behavior.
The study will weigh the concerns of privacy and safety through hard data collection and analysis in an effort to get a better understanding of police-civilian relations.
Lorie Fridell, an associate professor and graduate director in the USF criminology department, said using body cameras is a step forward in monitoring police encounters.
“The hypothesis is that the use of body cameras will reduce the use of police force, resolve complaints from community members quicker and reduce injuries to officers and subject,” she said.
Researchers believe people behave more mindfully while being filmed, Fridell said.
The demand for body cameras from police departments has increased this past year, Fridell said. The Orlando Police Department wanted to invest in body cameras. However, the absence of empirical tests confirming its effectiveness has prevented the department from receiving funding for the cameras, which cost between $200 and $400 per unit, she said.
Of the 100 police volunteers, 50 will have body cameras and the other half will not. Officers will then be paired and matched in terms of scheduling and areas of work.
The cameras will be placed at eye level to the officer wearing them, positioned on sunglasses and behind the ears, but also can be attached to shirt collars.
Current body cameras have been in use over the past couple years in places such as Hamilton, Ohio and Los Angeles, but have been inefficient to carry around. They are the size of pagers and can be bulky to wear.
The new cameras will be much lighter and smaller, making it easier for them to be worn, Fridell said.
A similar, small scale study was constructed by the University of Cambridge in 2012 with the Rialto Police Department in California, showed complaints against police officers dropping 88 percent, and the use of force from police declining by 60 percent.
The USF study will begin in March and will last one year.
As of now, no police department in the Tampa Bay area have used body cameras, but the Clearwater and Tampa Police Departments are beginning to consider it since the study was first announced by USF Department of Criminology, a representative from Tampa Police said.