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October 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Denver Post Op-Ed Quotes Lassiter ‘Camera Perspective Bias’

Denver Post reporter Zachary Fine quoted a study by Dr. G. Daniel Lassiter, Professor of Psychology, for an Oct. 18 opinion piece on “Police cameras and privacy concerns.”

In recent weeks, body-mounted cameras have taken police departments by storm. More than a dozen cities, from Forth Worth to Chicago, have already implemented preliminary programs. The Denver Police Department has been using the cameras for two months, and now the city of Aurora plans to spend $300,000 on unrolling its own program.

With the specter of Ferguson, Mo., still looming large in the national conscious, the desire for video evidence seems more acute than ever. Under siege from the media, even police officers in Ferguson were recently outfitted with cameras in the hopes of bolstering the department’s waning credibility.

An extensive report released by the Justice Department this month concluded that the technology will enable police “to demonstrate transparency and openness in their interactions with members of the community,” and that it will “promote the perceived legitimacy and sense of procedural justice that communities have about their police departments….”

Dr. G. Daniel Lassiter

Dr. G. Daniel Lassiter

Despite Holder’s resolute faith in the clarity and verifiability of recorded content, there is evidence to suggest risks that could plague the supposed advances offered by the technology. One experiment, conducted at Ohio University by the psychologist G. Daniel Lassiter, revealed that compelling video-recorded confessions swayed mock juries to false interpretations all too easily. By narrowing the camera frame to the defendant, and thus blocking the interrogator from view, participants (which in one study involved judges and other law enforcement officials) tended to affirm the legitimacy of confessions, regardless of whether the interrogator acted coercively. Across many related experiments, including ones at New York University and Yale, numerous psychologists have confirmed the problem of what Lassiter calls “camera perspective bias.”

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