“‘In Situ’ Assessments of Officer’s Accounts of ‘What Happened’ in Police-Involved Shootings”

Event Date: 

Friday, May 14, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/7574427215

This paper uses Conversation Analysis (CA) to analyze officer-officer talk in the immediate aftermath of a fatal shooting using transcripts of body-worn camera (BWC) videos drawn from the Washington Post (WAPO) database of police shootings. We focus on the account production process in-situ, in its earliest interactional genesis by analyzing officer’s conversations and non-verbal behaviors available on the video. Our data consists of 30 cases taken from the WAPO 2015 and 2017 databases where the shooting officer’s video remained on and recording after the shooting providing some conversation between officers for analysis. In this paper, we explore three sequential environments where the shooting officer is proferring an account: a) immediate agreement with the shooting officer; b) immediate disagreement with the shooting officer; and c) ambivalent or ambiguous responses to the shooting officer. In everyday conversation, the preference for agreement has been well established (Heritage and Pomerantz 2013). Consequently, exploring how agreement and disagreement occurs in this conversational space is important. Instances of disagreement, delayed agreement, and expressions of ambivalence are particularly notable in that it suggests officers may be far more discerning in their support of a colleague’s deadly force decision in the immediate aftermath of the event. Such behavior provides a more nuanced perspective about the assumption that the police “code of silence” is unequivocally protective of each other. In the limited cases where video captures post-shooting interactions and officers are formally charged and tried in court, in-situ support at the time of the shooting appears to correlate with recipient officers support, or lack there-of, for shooting officers accounts in these proceedings.