Washington State University researchers are working with police departments to objectively review videos to benchmark officer performance and inform training
An agency’s body-worn camera video contains multiple data points that can be operationalized to benchmark officer performance and inform training. Tapping into that wealth of knowledge is the mission of David A. Makin, Ph.D., an associate professor in criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University and director of WSU’s Complex Social Interactions Lab.
Through data analytics and machine learning, Makin and his team code and catalog key variables in bodycam videos associated with a range of outcomes as specified by the agencies participating in the research. Importantly, the work undertaken in the lab captures situational and environmental factors such as the geographic location, ambient noise level, time of day, and the presence and actions taken by bystanders to better contextualize and therefore better understand interactions between police and the community.
Recently, WSU’s research team passed a significant milestone of 20,000 hours (nearly 120 weeks’ worth) of analyzed footage. I sat down with Dr. Makin to discuss how this research can contribute toward improving police-community interactions and create data-driven solutions for enhancing situational awareness, officer safety and de-escalation.
Several students from across the College of Arts and Sciences were among WSU scholars who presented posters at the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) 2022 on March 28.
SURCA is the unique WSU-wide venue for students from all majors, years in college, and all WSU campuses to share their mentored research, scholarship, and creative activities, and have judges evaluate their work shown on a poster. At this year’s event, around 140 students from four campuses were among those accepted to present 112 posters to 90 judges. Faculty, postdoctoral students, and community experts used a common rubric to evaluate and score presentations across nine SURCA categories.
At the awards ceremony, 43 students from WSU Pullman and Vancouver and the Global Campus were announced as recipients of 33 awards. In total, nearly $8,000 will be given to support their efforts.
A nationally recognized scholar of prison reform, WSU professor Mary Stohr has been selected to receive the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ prestigious John Howard Award for her significant and sustained contributions to the practice of corrections.
“John Howard literally gave his life in the pursuit of improving European jails and promoting humane treatment of prisoners—he died of typhus, also known as ‘jail fever.’ I am very humbled to be recognized among the ranks of those working diligently to improve correctional facilities for inmates and staff,” said Stohr.
Stohr served five years as ACJS executive director, co-founded the Corrections Section and the Minorities and Women Section, and previously received both the Founders Award and the Fellows Award.
Chronic fatigue and other ills brought about by irregular work schedules have always been a concern for law enforcement officers. Only relatively recently has there been any scientific analysis of the problem.
The webinar featured several presenters who each broke down data gathered during a longitudinal study of police officers in Buffalo, NY. The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study followed hundreds of public safety officers between 2004 and 2020, tracking their work schedules and health over the course of the project.
The seminal work in this area was an unrelated research effort published over 20 years ago. Tired Cops by Bryan Vila (now a Ph.D. and retired professor of criminal justice at Washington State University) detailed some of the health hazards suffered by cops who worked irregular schedules. Some of the situations he studied were brought about by the cops themselves, who insisted on working second jobs or engaged in other pursuits when they should have been sleeping.
Law enforcement officials on the Palouse have made it clear police reform laws that took effect in Washington this week will not stop staff from responding to emergency calls.
The legislation will, however, affect their actions when they arrive at the scene.
What police are allowed and not allowed to do is not always clear.
Washington State University associate professor David Makin said he advised police to clarify that the new law does not lock police out from assisting those people, it just limits their ability to use force. Makin works in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, serves on the Pullman Police Advisory Committee and has worked with Jenkins on police-related research projects for years.
“While both HB 1310 and HB 1054 have created unnecessary confusion regarding the rule of law, I would urge (the Pullman Police Department) to clarify the process and reassure the community that PPD is committed to assisting those most vulnerable in our community in their time of need,” Makin said “My understanding is that PPD has good working relationships and protocol for handling these situations and has handled these scenes with compassion.