ORA 7 - Evaluation - Open Research Area 2022 - Evaluation

Visions of Policing: How Visual Technologies Shape Police Oversight and Training – VoP

Submission summary

New visual technologies including body-worn and cellphone cameras have led to previously unprecedented access to police conduct. Public reaction to the ‘new visibility’ of use-of-force, crowd control and interrogations has been extremely polarized, and criticism has been directed at police services through video evidence. However, little attention has been paid to how police use visual information themselves to evaluate officer conduct and training. This project fills that gap, conducting a comparative analysis of citizen and police use of visual technology to criticize and inform “reasonable” police conduct.

In stage 1, researchers will analyze the reports of police oversight services or criticisms of police conduct by citizens groups, closely attending to how these groups utilize visual technology to support accusations of police misconduct, and how evidence is used by civilian police oversight services to adjudicate those accusations. We will study the types of arguments made with videos of police conduct, and how such arguments are either accepted or rejected through an investigative process. Reports of police misconduct with video evidence will be compared with reports without supporting video evidence to better comprehend how video alters or augments citizens’ capacities to complain about the police.

In stage 2, we will study how police services use visual technologies (video, immersive trainers, etc) to evaluate and teach “reasonable” officer conduct in use-of-force, crowd control, and interrogation settings. We will conduct participant-observation ethnographies, sitting in on classes at police colleges and interviewing police trainees and trainers on how visual technologies are informing their learning and teaching practices. The information obtained through this research will be compared with information learned in the first stage to better understand how the new visibility of policing is affecting the perception of “reasonable” officer conduct.

Findings from these two stages of research will be shared with, and used by, software engineers at Cardiff university to build new video analytic and simulation tools for police oversight and training. We will work with these scholars and practitioners to inform a set of simple tools for annotating and analyzing video for both pedagogic and oversight purposes, and to develop international best practice for using visual technologies in police training and oversight.

This research contributes to a broad body of literature on the phenomenology of perception, a conceptual and theoretical analysis of how perception functions in society. We will contribute to theoretical discussions about how perception is achieved between individuals, using police oversight and training as ‘perspicuous settings’ to explore how disputes over police conduct are argued or agreed upon, furthering our academic understanding of how visual stimuli are transformed into meaningful information.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Jacques de Maillard (Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions pénales)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


WLU Wilfrid Laurier University
TUB Technical University Berlin
CESDIP Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions pénales
CU Cardiff University
BU Bielefeld University
LU Liverpool University

Help of the ANR 1,740,012 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2022 - 36 Months

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