Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Travis Linnemann

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

William McClanahan

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Reform is a political tool, long used to ensure the continuation of specific police practices and the police institution itself. Promising increased transparency and accountability and hence legitimacy, Body Worn Cameras (BWC) purport to show the facts of police work and critical incidents precisely as they happened. Invoking and relying upon the objective truth of the image, policy makers, academics and some police themselves see BWCs both as a panacea to arrest police misconduct and a way to guard against spurious allegations. However, placing them in the long history of police reform, BWCs are also usefully understood as a form of pacification, one which seeks to reaffirm police legitimacy specifically by mastering the visual field itself. Relying upon a collection of official documents outlining the efficacy and implementation of BWCs, it is argued here that police advocates seek to shield the institution from scrutiny by invoking photographic truth, while less sympathetic reformers likewise overestimate the ability of the visual to reign in the violence inherent to the police project.