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Seen It All Before: 10 Predictions About Police Body Cameras - The Atlantic


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2. Most of the footage captured by body cams will be boring.

Albert J. Meehan chairs the sociology department at Oakland University in Michigan. He’s the son and grandson of police officers, and he’s been doing field research with police departments since the 1970s.

About 10 years ago, he got access to a nearby police department’s video archive and plowed through it with an assistant. Instead of just focusing on police-citizen encounters, he watched entire day-long shifts. It was not thrilling work.

“If you look at the camera footage for eight hours, it’s pretty damn boring,” he told me.

Meehan saw routine traffic stops, the car driving around and stopping for food, the officers giving out parking tickets. And while he gained an understanding of individual officers’ “style of policing and the community context,” it came slowly. But he also said the tape helped him understand the contour of an officer’s day, and where a bad encounter with citizens came from. Something would annoy an officer in the morning, Meehan said, and you could hear him or her stew on it through the rest of the day.

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