The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
In a 2016 survey of almost 8,000 police officers in the United States, the majority of officers (69 percent) stated that they did not believe that their department had provided sufficient training to prepare them for police work. Specifically, in the areas of officer bias and unnecessary force, 56 percent of officers responded that, in the previous 12 months, they had received at least four hours of training in the use of de-escalation tactics to avoid unnecessary force, while less than half (39 percent) had received at least four hours of bias and fairness training.
Proponents of body-worn cameras point to several potential benefits
Better transparency. First, body-worn cameras may result in better transparency and accountability and thus may improve law enforcement legitimacy. In many communities, there is a lack of trust and confidence in law enforcement. This lack of confidence is exacerbated by questions about encounters between officers and community members that often involve the use of deadly or less-lethal force. Video footage captured during these officer-community interactions might provide better documentation to help confirm the nature of events and support accounts articulated by officers and community residents
Increased civility. Body-worn cameras may also result in higher rates of citizen compliance to officer commands during encounters and fewer complaints lodged against law enforcement. Citizens often change their behavior toward officers when they are informed that the encounter is being recorded. This “civilizing effect” may prevent certain situations from escalating to levels requiring the use of force and also improve interactions between officers and citizens.
Quicker resolution. Body-worn cameras may lead to a faster resolution of citizen complaints and lawsuits that allege excessive use of force and other forms of officer misconduct. Investigations of cases that involve inconsistent accounts of the encounter from officers and citizens are often found to be “not sustained” and are subsequently closed when there is no video footage nor independent or corroborating witnesses. This, in turn, can decrease the public’s trust and confidence in law enforcement and increase perceptions that claims of abuse brought against officers will not be properly addressed. Video captured by body-worn cameras may help corroborate the facts of the encounter and result in a quicker resolution.
Corroborating evidence. Footage captured may also be used as evidence in arrests or prosecutions. Proponents have suggested that video captured by body-worn cameras may help document the occurrence and nature of various types of crime, reduce the overall amount of time required for officers to complete paperwork for case files, corroborate evidence presented by prosecutors, and lead to higher numbers of guilty pleas in court proceedings.
Training opportunities. The use of body-worn cameras also offers potential opportunities to advance policing through training. Law enforcement trainers and executives can assess officer activities and behavior captured by body-worn cameras — either through self-initiated investigations or those that result from calls for service — to advance professionalism among officers and new recruits. Finally, video footage can provide law enforcement executives with opportunities to implement new strategies and assess the extent to which officers carry out their duties in a manner that is consistent with the assigned initiatives.
This law, commonly referred to as the Police Misconduct Statute, gives the Department of Justice authority to seek civil remedies in cases where law enforcement agencies have policies or practices that foster a pattern of misconduct by employees. This action is directed against an agency, not against individual officers. The types of issues which may initiate a pattern and practice investigation include:
- Lack of Supervision/monitoring of officers actions;
- Lack of justification or reporting by officers on incidents involving the use of
- Lack of, or improper training of, officers; and
- Citizen complaint processes that treat complainants as adversaries.
Under Title 42, U.S.C., Section 1997, the Department of Justice has the ability to initiate civil actions against mental hospitals, retardation facilities, jails, prisons, nursing homes, and juvenile detention facilities when there are allegations of systemic derivations of the constitutional rights of institutionalized persons.
In recent years, police agencies have looked to early intervention systems (EIS) or early warning systems as solutions to identify potentially problematic behaviors, as well as to ensure officer accountability. These systems provide a means to stay ahead of misconduct issues through proactive measures of early identification and corrective actions. EIS track individual officer data such as allegations of officer misconduct, use-of-force reports, abuse of sick leave, continual poor performance, citizen complaints, civil litigation, and traffic stop data, among myriad other factors.
EIS are designed to identify officers who hit specific levels or numbers of warnings. Supervisors review the data and warnings to determine if intervention is necessary. If so, intervention then occurs through training, education, supervision, counseling, or discipline. Research has shown that in most departments, it is usually a small number of officers who are responsible for the majority of issues.
EIS have the potential to influence not only individual officer behavior, but also to impact the training programs, policies, and procedures of the department. Through the EIS, police chiefs and administrators can develop initial and remedial training specific to the needs of their officers, which can reduce officer misconduct and strengthen community-police relations.
Police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed, according to a study of 9,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.