Study uses body cameras to show racial disparities in Oakland police behavior

oakland pd stanford body camera study bodycamera2
Creative Commons/Daniel Arauz.
As the use of body cameras gains steam in police departments across the country, the public increasingly gains insight into the police officers who wear them. Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt and a team of researchers conducted a federally ordered 13-month study of the Oakland Police Department and discovered that African-Americans accounted for 60 percent of police stops in Oakland, while white people comprised only 13 percent.

Eberhardt looked at more than 3,000 videos shot from the officers’ body cameras for the study, as well as data from more than 28,119 traffic and pedestrian stops carried out by 510 police officers recorded between April 1, 2013, and April 30, 2013. It also analyzed 1,000 police reports, surveyed more than 400 Oakland residents, and examined a month of audio recordings for language and tone used by officers.

The results showed African-American men were more than twice as likely to be arrested after a stop compared to white men. African-Americans were also four times as likely to be searched by police officers than white people were, although they were no more likely to be in possession of anything illegal. In addition, 65 percent of Oakland police officers deemed it necessary to search an African-American person, whereas 77 percent of the officers never did so for a white person.

To fix this racial disparity in police treatment, the team of researchers are developing “computational tools” to help analyze police officers’ verbal interactions with civilians. The tools would be able to examine tone of voice, turns taken in conversations, and other relevant information. According to Eberhardt, most body-worn camera footage from police officers are not analyzed because it is viewed as evidence instead of data. “Evidence can prove liability or innocence in one specific case,” Eberhardt wrote in her the report. “But data can show patterns across incidents, and possibly be used to change those patterns.”

These findings from come as a surprise, especially since the Oakland Police Department had shown consistent signs of improvement since it began testing body-worn cameras in late 2010. The number of use-of-force incidents decreased by 66 percent between 2011 and 2015, from 1,494 to 504.

In December 2014, President Barack Obama announced a plan a plan — the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) Smart Policing Initiative — to award $75 million of federal spending toward providing 50,000 body-worn cameras to police departments nationwide over three years. In the plan’s first year, the Justice Department awarded more than $23 million to 73 police agencies in 32 states for the purchase of body cameras and research into their impact. The Justice Department is also allocating $1.9 million toward researching the impact of body cameras — similar to Standford’s research — with police departments in Miami, Milwaukee, and Phoenix being included.

Expect to see into police departments like never before in the coming years, as body cameras go from a novelty to standard practice.

Business

Alita: Battle Angel’s big opening weekend leads weak holiday box office

New box-office champion Alita: Battle Angel outperformed expectations with its big premiere and positive reviews from critics, but Presidents' Day weekend is still off to a slow start.
Smart Home

Your office is a mess, and it’s making Marie Kondo cry. Here’s how to tidy it up

Here's how to "Marie Kondo" your office. If you've been inspired to remove clutter and create a minimalistic workspace that makes you happy and helps you focus on what matters, then we have ideas that you'll want to try.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Photography

Fujifilm XP140 squeezes more durability, low-light ability into a waterproof cam

Fujifilm's waterproof compact can now head even further underwater. The Fujifilm XP140 features several upgrades, including a more durable body, a wider ISO range for low light, and expanded auto modes.
Photography

From f/1.2 primes to the mysterious DS, here are Canon’s upcoming RF lenses

Canon's EOS R mirrorless series will gain six new lenses this year. Canon just shared a list of six lenses under development, including four zooms and two prime lenses. One has a mysterious new feature called Defocus Smoothing.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Photography

Photography news: Wacom’s slimmer pen, Leica’s cinema special edition

In this week's photography news, Wacom launches a new slimmer pen for pro users. Leica's upcoming M10-P is designed for cinema, inside and out, with built-in cinema modes in the updated software.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Photography

Luminar’s libraries gain speed, drop need for you to manually import images

Luminar 3 just got a performance boost. Skylum Luminar 3.0.2 has improved speed over December's update, which added the long-promised libraries feature giving editors a Lightroom alternative.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.