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. She is right now just analysing the results and two really big finding in particular really stand out:

  1. Officers are asking is it really worth it? They’re bi-questioning the necessity and value of the body cameras.
  2. Officers are actually internalising the surveillance gaze.

Her interest in body-worn cameras really came when she heard about the pilot project at the Toronto Police Service. Her initial reaction was: “Really, more cameras?” and then she wasn’t really surprised because we’re transitioning into this surveillance society. She wanted to explore how are police officers feeling when they have body worn cameras on and what are the resulting effects.

According to Nevena, body cameras are fascinating for a number of reasons. First, they really came out of this period of social unrest and it was mainly because there was a lot of police shooting of young unarmed black men and there was a call for greater police transparency and accountability. 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.

Beyond basics practical questions such as: What’s the cost? Does it reduce citizen complaints? Does it reduce police use of force?, 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 the social significance of body worn cameras and what kind of impact it’s going to have on their lives, in a world where there’s always a watchful eye.

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 in 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
"OnceI 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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