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Criminal Justice and Criminology News

Cops’ body cameras prove popular

Friday, September 5, 2014

Safety and accountability were the primary reasons why Pullman police began wearing body cameras last year, but a new study suggests improved communication may be an even bigger benefit.

David Makin, associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and a research fellow at the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice, has been studying the department’s use of the new technology since the idea of equipping patrol officers with cameras was first discussed about two years ago.

By interviewing officers before and after the implementation, he found their opinions shifted from some initial anxiety and opposition to a strongly favorable impression, even given a few technical difficulties in using the equipment.

Moreover, in addition to documenting evidence and interactions with the public, officers can now use the video footage to critique themselves and look for ways to improve their own performance.

Read more in the Lewiston Tribune (subscription required)

WSU ‘deadly force’ lab finds racial disparities in shootings

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Lois James, left, and Bryan Vila

Lois James, left, and Bryan Vila

Participants in an innovative WSU study of deadly force were more likely to feel threatened in scenarios involving black people. But when it came time to shoot, participants were biased in favor of black suspects, taking longer to pull the trigger against them than against armed white or Hispanic suspects.

The findings, published in the recent Journal of Experimental Criminology, grow out of dozens of simulations aimed at explaining the disproportionate number of ethnic and racial minorities shot by police. The studies use the most advanced technology available, as participants with laser-equipped guns react to potentially threatening scenarios displayed in full-size, high-definition video.

Lois James and Bryan Vila, research professors in criminology and criminal justice at WSU Spokane, used a sophisticated “deadly force” simulator to analyze how police, military and the general public react in threatening situations.

Read more

WSU professor, Spokane Police featured in CNN segment on crisis intervention research

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Bryan Vila

Bryan Vila

WSU professor of criminal justice Bryan Vila and the Spokane Police Department are featured in a CNN program for their collaboration on research into the physical and emotional responses of law enforcement in crisis situations.

As part of its “AC360” program hosted by Anderson Cooper, reporter Gary Tuchman visited a police confrontations lab run by students at WSU Spokane. Volunteers, including members of the Spokane Police Department, are placed in a virtual reality situation involving dramatizations of real-life confrontations, and their heart rate, brain waves and other vital signs are monitored as they make decisions about use of force.

Find out more and watch the program segment online

Gang Mentality

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Police say Portland, Ore., gang violence is exploding. A landmark report shows just the opposite.

Clay Mosher

Clay Mosher

Turn on the TV news and you’d have reason to believe gang violence in Portland, Ore., is out of control. Terse warnings from police and fallout from three recent high-profile shootings have prompted alarming reports in the media of a recent surge in gang activity.

But amid the rhetoric and media heat, a far more complicated picture emerges when the numbers are examined.

Clay Mosher, a professor of sociology at WSU-Vancouver and author of a gang assessment for Clark County law enforcement in 2012, says various agencies label gang-related crime differently—and often liberally. “Most crimes committed by gang members are not committed for the gang. But they can get coded as a gang-related crime,” Mosher said.

Learn more about efforts to measure gang activity

‘Housing First’ Helps Keep Ex-Inmates Off the Streets (and Out of Prison)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Faith Lutze

Faith Lutze

Many of the roughly 10,000 inmates who exit U.S. prisons each week following incarceration face an immediate critical question: Where will I live? While precise numbers are hard to come by, research suggests that, on average, about 10 percent of parolees are homeless immediately following their release. In large urban areas, and among those addicted to drugs, the number is even higher—exceeding 30 percent.

“Without a safe and stable place to live where they can focus on improving themselves and securing their future, all of their energy is focused on the immediate need to survive the streets,” says Faith Lutze, criminal justice professor at WSU. “Being homeless makes it hard to move forward or to find the social support from others necessary to be successful.”

Learn more about Lutze’s research into inmate recidivism

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