Masked Emotion: Police Officer Perception of Threatening or Nonthreatening Expressions in the era of Covid-19

This project estimates the ability of 500 officers in the Los Angeles Police Department to assess non-verbal expressed emotion in the era of covid-19. One of the central strategies currently used to control the spread of COVID-19 is encouraging, or requiring, the public to cover their face. The impact of these coverings on policing is currently unknown. In the proposed pilot study, we will test the impact of a simple, non-medical coronavirus mask on a police officer’s ability to detect emotion, and their assessment of that emotion as threatening or nonthreatening. Eligible officers will be asked to assess expressed emotions in a series of photographs. Officers assigned to the control group will be given a set of unmasked emotive pictures to assign, and the treatment group will be given a set of otherwise identical masked emotive pictures.

This pilot will serve as a preliminary test of the non-verbal communication skills and de-escalation tactics of police officers, and how public health directives have impacted how police and the community interact. This is critical for understanding how the COVID pandemic has impacted policing, which as an institution plays a central role in the persistence of structural inequality in the US.

RFP Cycle:
SLII Off Cycle RFP [2020]
United States of America
  • Carolyn Coles-Taylo
  • Emily Owens
  • Pilot project