BWC Update from Force Science Institute

The following comes courtesy of the Force Science Institute.  Seems like good advice. 

Building articulation while the camera rolls

When it comes to body cams and dash cams, don’t rely on the video alone to tell your side of the story. Your verbal narration as the action unfolds can be a critical component of what the device records, advises Dep. Chief William Mazur of the Atlantic City (NJ) PD.

Mazur is an instructor with the Force Science course on Body Cameras & Other Recordings in Law Enforcement. He spoke with Force Science News recently after a presentation to the class at the Force Science Research & Training Center in Chicago.

Where it’s practical to do so, supplying a running commentary on your perceptions and actions while the camera is on can help maximize the benefit of that equipment during the contact, Mazur explains.

“This can be especially important in search-and-seizure and use-of-force situations,” he says. “By narrating what you’re experiencing and what’s motivating your actions, you can provide a strong foundation for reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

“Officers usually articulate this information after the incident, when they’re writing their report. But if you articulate critical details as you go along–what you’re seeing and feeling, what you’re thinking–and then back it up with your report, the case becomes more of a slam dunk.”

“ARTICULATING YOUR MINDSET.” Typically, officers may build their PC silently, mentally noting that “something’s wrong here” from such things as the distinctive smell of burnt marijuana on a vehicle stop, evasive or inconsistent answers during a field interview, pre-attack cues in a confrontation with a hostile subject, resistive tension in a potentially combative arrestee, and so on. Mazur suggests stating aloud (and thus contemporaneously recording) the important indicators you’re aware of; “articulating your mindset,” he terms it, so your actions are better understood.

His department has been advocating this in training for about 18 months, he says. Most officers who were skeptical in the beginning have become enthusiastic converts.

“It takes practice to retrain your brain to automatically and comfortably narrate,” Mazur says. And it’s important to stay flexible. “There may be times when you don’t want a subject to hear what you’re thinking or seeing. Then you may be able to go to your patrol car or step out of earshot to record what’s in your mind.

“You don’t have to speak long paragraphs or use perfect grammar. Just a few words–even one word (‘Gun!’)–can be helpful.

“Sometimes the camera doesn’t capture everything, and the voice articulation may cover what’s missing in the video. On the other hand, there may be gaps, distortions, or confused chronology in an officer’s memory after a highly stressful incident and contemporaneous narration may straighten out those lapses.”

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One thought on “BWC Update from Force Science Institute

  1. Not so sure talking too much is going to be the best thing, especially with the aggressive nature of reviewers who want to overanalyze and over-scrutinize every miniscule detail of what appears on BWC’s and MVU’s. In theory, what is mentioned here is regarding a best case scenario, such as is often seen on shows like COPS where editing can make even the very worst officer appear to be performing duties in a text book fashion. That being said, since text book is what hapless reviewers (and remember their may be infinite numbers of people doing this) are looking for, its less likely an officer will help themselves in the short run with extemporaneous commentary. Once everything is in a fine lawyer’s hands (in the long run), I suppose it could be used to an advantage. Just needs to be considered heavily where largely the BWC in New Orleans has become the primary tool of justification for punitive rather than exonerative measures.

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