This article explores community members' perceptions of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD)'s body-worn camera (BWC) program, examining knowledge and support of the program and its impact on views of procedural justice and legitimacy. A two-wave, online survey was administered to Milwaukee-area residents in fall 2017 and summer 2018, yielding 1,527 respondents. Multivariate regression analyses focus on overall relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, community member knowledge of the program, procedural justice, and legitimacy and support for BWCs.
Community members were supportive of BWCs and viewed officers as procedurally just and legitimate; however, perceptions were significantly lower among Black respondents. Respondents with knowledge of the BWC program were more likely to view officers as procedurally just, but program knowledge did not increase support for it. Police agencies may benefit from improving community awareness of their BWC program as knowledge of the program is positively linked to the views of departmental procedural justice and legitimacy. However, education efforts alone are not sufficient in improving police–community relations.
Future research should examine how policing stakeholders can engage the community to build views of legitimacy associated with BWC policies. Findings provide insight into community member perceptions of a large body-worn camera program in a major US city. Results demonstrate the relationship between knowledge of a department's BWC program and views of procedural justice and legitimacy and support for BWCs.
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