Article in Critical Social Policy

My article with Krystle Shore (University of Waterloo) and Jenna Imad Harb (Australian National University) is available in the new issue of Critical Social Policy. ANU media has provided a press release that summarizes the findings, and the full text is available here.

Body-Worn Cameras, Police Violence, and the Politics of Evidence: A Case of Ontological Gerrymandering

Abstract: Public demands for greater police accountability, particularly in relation to violence targeting Black and Brown communities, have placed pressure on law enforcement organizations to be more transparent about officers’ actions. The implementation of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) has become a popular response. This paper examines the embrace of BWCs amidst the wider shift toward evidence-based policing by scrutinizing the body of research that evaluates the effects of these technologies. Using an intertextual analysis, we illustrate how the privileging of certain forms of empiricism, particularly randomized controlled trials, evinces what Woolgar and Pawluch describe as ontological gerrymandering. In doing so, the emergent evidence base supporting BWCs as a policing tool constitutively redefines police violence into a narrow conceptualization rooted in encounters between citizens and police. This analysis examines how these framings, by design, minimize racialized power relations and structural inequality. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of these evidence-based claims, arguing that they can direct attention away from—and thus can buttress—the structural conditions and institutions that perpetuate police violence.