Camera point-of-view exacerbates racial bias in viewers of police use of force videos

Journal of Communication

Abstract: The implementation of body-worn cameras (BWC) by policing agencies has received widespread support from many individuals, including citizens and police officers. Despite their increasing prevalence, little is known about how the point-of-view (POV) of these cameras affects perceptions of viewers. In this research, we investigate how POV interacts with skin color of citizens in police use of force videos to affect perceptions of procedural justice. In an experimental study, participants watched 8 police use of force videos – half recorded from BWC and half from an onlooker’s perspective – in which skin tone of the citizen varied. Results indicate that POV interacts with citizen skin tone such that, compared to the onlooker perspective, the BWC exacerbated viewer racial bias against dark skin tone citizens. Further, identification with the police officer fully mediated this relationship. Results are discussed in relation to media theory and practical implications.

Glenna Read