On Dec. 25, 2019, a New Haven, Connecticut, police officer approached a man whose car was parked illegally, and told him to go sit on the sidewalk.
Within just a few minutes, the situation had escalated to violence. In a video posted on YouTubeby a Hartford news station, the officer can be seen slamming the man to the ground, kicking him and pulling his hair. Because the officer was wearing a body camera, it was all caught on tape, and the officer, Jason Santiago, was later charged with third-degree assault.
How do simple police-civilian interactions like this become violent so quickly?
Eric Piza, a professor of criminology at Northeastern, set out to answer that question. By analyzing hundreds of hours of Newark Police Department body camera footage, Piza and his colleagues are helping to establish what factors predict when use of force occurs during officer-civilian interactions. Their work has wide-ranging implications for how the police force should be trained.
Piza’s latest research, published last month in the journal Criminology, piggybacks a decade-long effort to reform the Newark Police Department after a 2011 Justice Department investigation found that the department had covered up misconduct allegations. In 2014, the Newark Police Department was placed under monitor, and a “consent decree” dictated that the city would follow any recommendations the Justice Department made.