An Empirical Study of In-Car Camera Archives to Examine Racial Profiling

A. Jay Meehan, Oakland University
Jennifer Dierickx, Wayne State University

The controversy surrounding the police profiling of minority motorists has led to renewed calls to examine police patrol practices. One response has been to increase the use of video-cameras in patrol cars. It is argued that a videotaped record of patrol work would hold officers accountable as well as help settle questions of racial profiling both as a general issue and in any individual case. Though in-car camera technology may be useful in assessing, and pershaps constraining racial profiling, how officers use this technology in situ is important to consider. However, there are virtually no empirical studies of camera car archives that can illuminate just how helpful this technology really is for examining questions about racial profiling.

In this paper, we report on our research which examines the in-car camera archives from two police departments and utilizes a corpus of over 1000 videotapes (representing approximately 8000 hours of patrol work). We present preliminary findings about officer compliance with organizational policies regarding camera and microphone use, the extent to which race and outcome data for traffic stops are possible to determine from such audio-visual records and identify problems facing researchers and departments who might want to undertake such research.

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Updated 05/20/2006