Body-worn camera on police officers - research by Masters student Nevena Aksin

Posted on Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nevena Aksin

Nevena Aksin's thesis topic focuses on body-worn cameras and specifically, police officers perceptions of body worn cameras in the Toronto Police Service. Drawing on the early stages of her research from interviews with Toronto police officers, she notes two emerging findings that are particularly interesting and stand out from the literature:

1. Officers are asking is it really worth it and therefore questioning the necessity and value of the body cameras.

2. Officers are internalising the surveillance gaze.

Her interest in body-worn cameras began when she learned about Toronto Police Service’s pilot project on body-worn cameras in early 2015. Her initial reaction was: “Really, more cameras?” Despite her reaction, she notes that it certainly wasn’t a shock. For many, body-worn cameras are the next natural progression in modern police technology. 

According to Nevena, body cameras are fascinating for a number of reasons. First, there is this notion that it is a tactic to counter unrest; namely the public outcry for greater police transparency and accountability as a result of multiple police shootings of young black men. Second, it seems to align well with this movement to modernized police services in the sense that we’re using technology to improve police-community relationship. Finally, body worn cameras are being adopted rapidly in North America, but there’s actually little evidence justifying their value and use.

While numerous reports have pointed to the success of body-worn cameras, Nevena notes that we must remain skeptical as these cameras are not all that they seem. In her quest to find out more, she set out to explore how police officers think and feel about body-worn cameras and how this relates to their use of body-worn cameras. Beyond basics practical questions such as: What’s the cost? Does it reduce citizen complaints? Does it reduce police use of force?, Nevena notes that we have to delve into something more important: the officers’ perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Through her research, she wanted to allow officers to reflect on not only the practical aspects but also the social significance of body worn cameras. In understanding their perceptions, we can begin to understand how this will affect their use of body-worn cameras and how this will impact the public and the Toronto Police Service.

Why graduate studies?

"What’s so special about graduate studies is that you have a specific topic or a specific research interest that you’re really passionate about and you’re able to have two years dedicated to completely exploring that topic in ways that you’ve never imagined possible!"

Public Criminology Course

The Public Criminology course that she took with Professor Michael Kempa it’s not only fascinating, but it’s extremely useful. “In academia, we use a lot of jargon to explain our ideas, and that’s not always the most effective way of communicating our research. Professor Kempa teaches us how to not only make out messages more clearly, but also how to organize our ideas in a sense that’s concise and also really interesting.”

"We actually get in contact with leaders in media, they came in for a class, and give us advices on how to write pitches, columns, features and even video scripts. We actually got to pitch our ideas to editors and reporters, and while it can be intimidating at first, they coached us and taught us how to communicate more effectively. It was a great experience!"

Favorite professor and why

What she really appreciates about Michael Kempa is that he is extremely intelligent, yet he makes topics so relatable and interesting. Also, she appreciates his ability to go from a professor, to a supervisor, to an editor. She finds it phenomenal - “he wears all three hats very well!”

Graduate research

"Graduate work at the university level is a privilege and it will opens a wide array of opportunities. You are exposed to so many different pieces of knowledge and experience that you would have never gotten if you didn’t go specifically into graduate studies. Pursuing my research at the graduate level meant I was able to explore areas that I never thought possible and my passion really only grew for it."

After her studies

"Once I graduate, I will work for a year preferably in research and then I will start my Ph.D. I still want to focus on policing, of course, either on the militarization of policing or the monopolization of technology in policing."

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