Police encounters receive moment-by-moment analysis in new study – News @ Northeastern – Northeastern University | Episode Movies

On December 25, 2019, a New Haven, Connecticut police officer approached a man whose car was illegally parked and asked him to sit on the sidewalk.

Within minutes, the situation had escalated violently. In a video posted to YouTube by a Hartford news station, the officer can be seen punching the man to the ground, kicking him and pulling his hair. Because the officer was wearing a body camera, everything was caught on tape, and officer Jason Santiago was later charged with third-degree assault.

How can simple police-civilian interactions like this turn into violence so quickly?

Eric Piza, Professor of Criminology at Northeastern to answer this question. By analyzing hundreds of hours of body camera footage from the Newark Police Department, Piza and his colleagues are helping to determine what factors predict violent interactions between officers and civilians. Their work has had far-reaching implications for the training of police forces.

Piza’s latest research, published last month in the journal Criminology, follows a decade-long effort to reform the Newark Police Department after a 2011 Justice Department investigation found the department covered up allegations of misconduct. In 2014, the Newark Police Department was put under surveillance, and a “consent decree” dictated that the city would follow any recommendations from the Department of Justice.

Eric Piza, Northeast professor of criminology and criminal justice and leader of crime analysis initiatives, poses for a portrait. Piza served as the GIS Specialist for the Newark, NJ Police Department and was responsible for the agency’s day-to-day crime analysis and program evaluation activities prior to the academic. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Now all uniformed Newark police officers are required to wear body cameras that accumulate thousands of hours of footage.

Of course, Piza sees thousands of hours of data in it that can help us better understand how officials and citizens interact. Two years ago, he and his team worked with the Newark Police Department to analyze body camera footage that showed the use of violence, which they define as “any violent physical action taken against a suspect,” but did not include handcuffs.

Using footage of 91 encounters between officials and citizens recorded between December 2017 and December 2018, Piza “coded” the content, cropping the footage at five-second intervals and recording various variables. These included quiet commands, yelling commands, non-compliance by the citizen, “verbally antagonistic behavior” by the citizen or officer, and varying degrees of use of force. The team also recorded other variables, e.g. B. whether the encounter took place indoors or outdoors, time of day and accents. Unlike previous research, they considered timing: how quickly did these encounters escalate?

Their results show that police action, or “authority retention variables,” predicted the use of force better than civilian action. In fact, Piza found that the greatest predictor of the use of force was an officer issuing an order, with the use of force often immediately following a calm command.

“It’s kind of a low-level activity,” says Piza. “So it was interesting for us to see that this minor activity by a police officer is indicative of the use of physical force.”

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