HENRIETTA, N.Y. — Police body cameras have been used as a tool for capturing social interactions, but can also hold those in law enforcement accountable.

“I think as a public, we're shocked constantly by the video that's depicting something police officers are doing that is, in some cases, clearly illegal,” professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of Criminal Justice John McCluskey said. “And in some other cases, upsetting.”

Video data analysis is used to focus on behavior and social outcomes of footage observed by researchers.

“We've never had the ability to observe as many police encounters as, for example, officer-involved shootings, for a very long time,” McCluskey said. “We had no footage whatsoever of what police do. Then we were exposed to the Rodney King beating in the early 1990s. And I think that raised some awareness of what was going on.”

The footage is opening the discussion at the Rochester Institute of Technology as researchers, professors and students are able to respond to the analysis of a wide range of human behavior.

“Today we were hearing about the use of the body cameras, but both their benefits and their faults and how that recorded audio and video is being coded and organized in such a way to be helpful and to allow the quantitative researchers to compare the qualitative researchers, rather, to kind of come in and see what it means and how it should be used,” student Peyton D’Anthony said.

These discussions are broadening students' perspectives on larger issues within the community. 

“It really reflected our interdisciplinary spirit at RIT and how the combination of technology and quantitative research is being used and put towards society in such a way that benefits it rather than the opposite,” D’Anthony said. “Which is why combining liberal arts with stuff like this is so important.”​

The hope is that reviewing encounters will improve law enforcement practices.

“We have to learn to try to help the public grapple with this and improve the practice,” McCluskey said. “So these events where police are involved in a homicide of a civilian, how do we minimize those? Is there something that we can do as researchers that would help police agencies use their own footage as a kind of learning repository?”