Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

William McClanahan

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Victoria E. Collins

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Police memorials are physical objects in public spaces, objects which seed our own cultural and personal ideologies, beliefs, and behaviors and which command our collective attention. Using qualitative research methodology, this visual ethnography looks at the unique and inherent power of police memorialization through the 2015 death of officer Daniel Ellis of the Richmond, Kentucky police department and the subsequent actions of the surrounding community and state officials. The purpose of this study was to document the widespread visual culture and iconography associated with memorialization, including the origin and placement of physical memorials made in honor of Ellis, thin blue line apparel worn at community events held in his honor, and the overabundance of stickers bearing the badge number of Ellis seen throughout the community, and to explore the cultural meanings associated with these memorialization practices. Informal social interactions while researching were documented to help with contextual information gained in this research. The effects of memorialization upon the broader community are explored through informal interviews and photographic documentation. The cultural production of police subjectivity is shown to be undertaken through memorialization, which fosters a sense of banal nationalism, provides narrative justifications for police power, and strengthens a generalized acceptance of violence of police.