Public calls for body cameras and increasing mandates for police camera footage are flooding in, as demands for officer accountability escalate. But simply slapping body cameras on officers is not the solution—in fact, adding body cameras without adding thoughtful and intentional training can have unintentional consequences and put officers and communities in unexpectedly compromised positions.
Studies have found that adding body cameras in simulation and telling officers that their performance will be filmed and then judged by law enforcement experts can result in increased stress and anxiety and decreased shooting accuracy, and an effect on reaction time. Being informed of a recording camera and an evaluating panel of experts—especially if the information comes after weapon calibration but before any simulation practice begins—seemingly rattles participants enough to affect their cognitive load and stress levels throughout the entire exercise, even when cameras are later turned off.
The implication is that these findings, if generalized to the impact of mandated body cameras for officers on duty, is that the officers’ awareness of the recording camera may negatively impact performance. The social pressure of the job and increased distractions of cameras recording every interaction (both on uniform and held by the general public) requires explicit training to counteract the potential for stress arousal and heightened cognitive load that can result in shooting inaccuracies, officer hesitation, and inappropriate responses in the field.
Training in simulation can and should include recording body cameras that can be reviewed, along with scenario footage and outcomes, so that officers can reflect on what is seen and not seen in scenarios. Repeated exposure to the added stressor of recording body cameras can lessen the impact on cognitive load and mitigate stress arousal so that officers can concentrate on the situation at hand, and not be distracted by the camera(s).
Excellence in the police force demands excellence in accountability. Body cameras can be a welcome addition to the uniform: they can foster positive community interactions and social perceptions. But simply requiring cameras is not the answer. Just as we wouldn’t throw a new apparatus at an Olympic athlete and then demand that they excel on the international stage, we can’t throw a body camera onto an officer and demand that they excel error-free in the spotlight. Judgment Skills Training is crucial and can provide the missing piece between public demands for police accountability and the critical need for outstanding, unquestionable police performance: officer stress mitigation.
The MILO Range PRO and Advanced systems include the Trainee Action Capture (TAC) feature, which records both color video and digital audio of the student during the training session. Instructors can then replay the captured video in normal and slow motion and frame by frame – in either a picture-in-picture or scenario-only display mode. Only the MILO Range allows for capturing instructor/student training comments during debriefing as part of the trainee performance capture.
The MILO Range PRO and Advanced systems also offer the industry-exclusive feature of archiving or exporting the Trainee Action Capture video and audio. The content can be saved on the system or exported to DVD for review in other systems.
By utilizing MILO Range recording capabilities, along with agency-issued body cameras during simulation training, departments can familiarize officers with the additional stress and cognitive load caused by camera awareness. As officers continue to practice with cameras and review their perceived and actual performances on film, they can build confidence and resilience to these additional stressors.
Demanding body cameras is a step in the right direction. Training officers to “get used to them” is another step. Thoughtful stress mitigation and performance reflection and feedback is one more step toward improved police-community relations and safety for all community stakeholders.