A student-led research project organized through the Trent Community Research Centre (TCRC) has the potential to transform local policing and public safety.
Sabrina Wolanczyk, a fourth-year Forensic Science and Lady Eaton College student, is delving into the complicated topic of body-worn cameras (BWCs) in collaboration with the Peterborough Police Service.
“There are a variety of views on the topic of body-worn cameras,” says Sabrina, who is completing a specialization in Law & Policing as a part of her undergraduate degree in Forensics.
“The goal of my research is to further understand how civilians and police officers feel about this new approach in police services, and there are a lot of factors to consider with this implementation, from human rights to proper use of technology.”
Her community-based research project is looking into many topics associated with BWCs, including: their ability to provide accurate representation of police encounters; impact on human rights and privacy; motives behind their use; and how they influence the officers’ ability on the job. Sabrina is also looking at issues that may drive public support for BWCs and their role to hold police services accountable.
Gaining Public Perspective & Profile
The year-long project includes an ethics application, as well as a survey of the public and an internal survey of police members. The public survey has been amplified by several local media outlets, elevating the importance and real-world implications of this project, and has received more 1,700 responses from the public to date.
"I believe this research is crucial for the Peterborough Police Service to not only obtain responses that can aid in the successful implementation of body-worn cameras, but to also enhance transparency, address concerns raised by residents, and engage the community in this important decision,” says Sabrina.
An in-depth literature review will also help identify gaps in research and examine decisions made by police services across Canada regarding BWCs. It will also illuminate individual opinions surrounding the devices.
“The research is all about compiling and reviewing the statistics and understanding the accuracy of the proposed benefits,” Sabrina says.
Gaining Real-World Experience
Through the community-based research project, Sabrina collaborates directly with the Peterborough Police Service (PPS), and increases the capacity of the service to conduct this type of work.
“It’s a huge undertaking to be able to do this survey,” said Emily Jones, community development & engagement coordinator for PPS. “All of the research that has gone into developing and analyzing the survey and conducting a scan of what is happening across Ontario and Canada is a huge benefit to the service, and the student. The results of Sabrina’s research will be turned over to the police services leadership and board and factored into decisions around what’s next on the topic of body-worn cameras, so it’s really important that her work project engaged the public.”
“This is very different than any other course I've taken,” says Sabrina.
“I'm the project lead, which puts me in a valuable position to be applying and developing the knowledge and skills that I've gained throughout other courses. It’s also a great opportunity to meet people within the profession, research a pressing topic, and give back to the community.”
Intrigued by scientific and investigative work, Sabrina says the project can be applied to future work applications and help her explore careers in the paralegal and law enforcement fields.
Sabrina will be presenting her findings to senior members of the Peterborough Police Service at the TCRC Annual Celebration of Research in the spring.
“The project will have a big impact if they choose to implement body-worn cameras,” she says.
Learn more about Trent’s prestigious Forensics Science programs.