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Using Police Body Camera Footage to Experimentally Assess the Effects of Routine Police Encounters for Community Trust and Community Health

Racial inequities in American policing are at the forefront of public consciousness in 2020. This research project will evaluate the physiological stress Black and white people experience during routine traffic stops, offering insights on the relationship between policing and minority health. Study participants will listen to audio recordings of actual traffic stops, as recorded by police body cameras; half of the recordings will be randomly-selected traffic stops involving Black drivers and half will be randomly-selected traffic stops involving white drivers. Researchers will monitor study participants’ perceptions and physiological reactions to these encounters using galvanic skin conductance (GSR) and electrocardiography (EKG). The study will offer insights into disparate police treatment of white and Black drivers as well as disparate impact of these interactions on white and Black people. By understanding the role of officer communication and the divergent ways people experience these routine police encounters, we can better intervene on these institutional interactions and train officers in communicating during routine interactions.

Nicholas Camp, assistant professor, Organizational Studies, University of Michigan