Becoming the Camera: Body worn video and shifting expectations of police work

Jessica Chapman (jessica.chapman@carleton.ca)
Communication, Carleton University
May, 2016
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Abstract

Traditionally positioned at the top of the hierarchy of visibility, police are being incorporated into the surveillant assemblage as a result of the proliferation of citizen cameras and viral footage of misconduct. As they struggle with their new visibility, many departments have turned to body worn video (BWV) as a solution. These devices record from a first-person perspective, giving police the opportunity to present their point-of-view.

By discrediting external footage and positioning their own as ‘official’ police are able to manage their visibility strategically, establishing a privileged position within the assemblage. The creation of technologically extended officers with superior claims to truth gives police the opportunity to shape narratives.

A consequence of these embodied devices is that officers are turned into collectors of visual evidence, tasked with ensuring the camera is interpreting the situation appropriately in the moment. This new responsibility forces officers to adopt the logic of their cameras.
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