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  • AOS-17-1302

    Resilient Communications Project:

    Body Worn Camera Perception Study Phase 1

    Memorandum Report

    17 November 2017

    Prepared for: Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Washington, D.C.

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    This document was prepared under funding provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (Contract Number N00024-13-D-6400; Task Order 0372, Task Number S8906, Resilient Systems for Public Safety Communication). Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) assumes no liability for this document’s content or use thereof. This document does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Additionally, JHU/APL does not endorse particular products or manufacturers. Trade and manufacturer’s names may appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the object of this document.

    Principal Authors: Steven Babin (JHU/APL), Wendy Koslicki (Washington State University) Contributing Authors: Ruth Vogel, John Contestabile, Karen Kohri (JHU/APL); David Makin (Washington State University)

    The authors would like to express their appreciation to the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate First Responders Group and our sponsors Mr. John Merrill and Mr. Cuong Luu.

    Please send comments to:

    Mr. John Contestabile Program Manager JHU/APL 11100 Johns Hopkins Road Laurel, MD 20723-6099 Phone: 443-220-8090 E-mail:

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    Executive Summary

    Body worn cameras (BWC) have become more widely used by law enforcement over the last few years, with over sixty different BWCs marketed for law enforcement use (as of May 2016). This usage has resulted in increased scrutiny by governments and news agencies, with many suggesting that BWCs may increase legitimacy and accountability of both law enforcement and civilians. However, it is known that there are differences between human and video observations of the same scene. A person's perception of the observed event is influenced by factors such as their emotional state, personal biases and experiences, etc. The video may not have captured enough of the scene to put the event in context (e.g., shadows, sudden movements out of the field of view). In addition, a person's perception of an event may be influenced by a number of factors such as whether they have observed the video and also have personal recall of the event, whether they only have personal recall, or whether they only have seen the video.

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), was assigned a two part task which included a) performing a synthesis study to identify and summarize existing BWC-related research, specifically that which involves law enforcement personnel perceptions of an incident/event to compare with data/video acquired from BWC devices, and b) Develop a research synthesis report that summarizes all applicable research identified and associated findings to DHS S&T for review and approval. Following the completion of these efforts, DHS S&T asked JHU/APL to provide a recommendation regarding the need for a follow-on pilot study.

    Because of their ongoing complementary efforts and their large existing library of BWC data, researchers at the Washington State University (WSU) Complex Social Interactions Lab participated in this effort. In the performance of this task, the team of JHU/APL and WSU 1) identified and collated relevant research already undertaken, 2) identified gaps in existing BWC- related research, and 3) provided findings and recommendations to help inform and help shape any follow-on pilot study.

    A comprehensive literature search was conducted to identify empirical research, reports and literature reviews, and commentaries and legal reviews considered to be relevant to the task mentioned above. This search resulted in 102 articles, of which 75 were selected for the coding and collation process because they specifically focused on BWCs. A gap analysis of all 75 published and identifiable forthcoming literature as of July 2017 revealed thirteen studies that devoted some focus to police or public perceptions of events captured by BWC. These thirteen studies were grouped into the following categories:

    1. Citizen recall of events captured by BWC (two studies);

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    2. Police/public interpretation of events captured by BWC footage (four studies); 3. Court interpretation of BWC footage (three studies); and 4. Officer recall of events captured by BWC (four studies).

    Among our findings was that the reliance on BWC footage as a full or accurate presentation of an event may lead to negative or unintended outcomes. Visual distortions, limited field of view (FOV), as well as mental and physiological stressors, are key factors that can affect a person’s perception, understanding, and decision-making. Unfortunately, the most relevant discussions were not empirical studies but rather three author commentaries concerning police perceptions and recall, particularly as they apply to report writing and statements in court.

    In summary, no empirical studies were found to have explored law enforcement personnel perceptions of an incident/event as compared to the data/video captured by BWC devices. Therefore, the JHU/APL and WSU team believe that a follow-on study would be of great value to the law enforcement community as it could provide insight to BWC-related policies and procedures. The team found six key knowledge gaps that a study could help address and therefore provide the following potential study topics for consideration:

    a) Studies to help determine the best approach for mounting cameras on police officers. In alignment with DHS S&T objectives, research should explore human factor integration associated with the various BWC mounting options and how differences in mounting may influence the video footage as well as perceptions of events.

    b) Studies of the how video footage characteristics influence the perception of the person viewing the BWC video. Recognizing the considerable volume of video footage that is captured and widely distributed, it is important to understand how video data characteristics (e.g., FOV, lighting, frame rate, compression) affect the perception of the person viewing the video compared with what a person saw while observing the event in real-time (e.g., the officer). Research could include both experimental research in controlled laboratory and field settings examining differences in the ability or inability to detect objects, and how different objects (e.g., possibly resembling or being a weapon) lead to perceptions of danger and influence the observer’s assessment of the interaction.

    c) Studies of how observer characteristics influence perceptions of an incident and BWC footage of an incident. Perceptions of an incident may vary based on the individual characteristics of those involved, including participants and observers. Research in this area should examine to what extent race, gender, education, personal experiences and other factors influence perceptions. Additionally, research in this area could focus on how characteristics of those captured in the footage influence perceptions of threat.

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    d) Studies on information recall of an event based both on time delay and whether the event was considered traumatic for the observer. Information recall associated with negative emotional events has been an active area of research. Subsequent research with eyewitness memory has focused on improving recall and on understanding specifically how trauma influences perceptions of events. Access to BWC footage of critical events would allow for expanded empirical research demonstrating specifically how trauma influences perceptions of time, distance, and the Field of View (FOV). Research should focus on how different aspects such as time frames, previous experiences, and other physical and mental stressors can influence the recall of an event.

    e) Studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of BWC video training sets. In addition to capturing accurate portrayals of proper procedures in field interactions, it will be important to develop training sets associated with interactions most often associated with critical incidents. These training sets should then be evaluated to determine the extent to which agency specific training sets improve acquisition and retention of skills and applications of that training in the field.

    f) Studies involving automated classification and analysis of BWC video. As the volume of BWC footage increases, there is a growing need to develop automated forms of classification and analysis to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of using this footage. Interdisciplinary research should be encouraged with social science/criminal justice interpreting and developing useful coding protocols, and in the areas of computer science, social sciences, and engineering developing computer vision and machine learning algorithms.

    The complexities of human visual perception and factors that affect the quality or interpretation of BWC video have remained relatively unexplore


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