The Thin Blue Waveform: Coding Police Officers' Emotions from Body Camera Audio
2014 CSS Fellowship
Interactions between police officers and members of the public can be highly charged and immensely consequential for both officer and civilian: the officer must gauge the potential guilt of the suspect, while the suspect risks being arrested or jailed. Given the legal and physical authority officers wield in these interactions, it is critical to identify situations under which race may influence officers’ judgments and actions. Past psychological research on race and policing has focused on racial bias in laboratory settings. Researchers, for example, have examined which faces capture the attention of officers when they are prompted to think of violent crime or how stereotypes may influence officers’ decisions to shoot unarmed Black versus White suspects in a computer game. However, most civilian interactions with officers resemble interviews rather than arcade shooting ranges. Research on racial bias has revealed that bias can be conveyed in subtle ways, independent of (or even in spite of) egalitarian intentions. For instance, even when officers say the same things to Black and White suspects, their tone may send different messages. The proposed research utilizes footage from Oakland Police Department (OPD) body cameras to test if prosodic vocal cues reveal differential treatment of Black and White suspects in real-world settings.