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date: 24 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The public now expects that police work will be video recorded. This challenges the foundational axiom that police work is a “low-visibility” occupation. Technological and social developments are rapidly making aspects of police work increasingly visible. A consensus seems to be emerging that this new high-visibility status undermines public trust and challenges police legitimacy. This article analyzes this situation and questions the extent to which videos of the police are producing uniformly negative outcomes for them. It emphasizes how the police are involved in an ongoing struggle for legitimacy, played out on a public stage and involving different images, audiences, and interpretations of recorded police behavior, paying attention to the complex and countervailing dynamics of police visibility, empowerment, and legitimacy. It highlights some of these dimensions by drawing on research on policing in Canada to accentuate the ways individual line officers relate to their heightened camera visibility.

Keywords: police, visibility, surveillance, cameras, media

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