The Verge has a great report about an emerging trend in policing–cameras that cops wear on the their bodies while interacting with suspects. (The piece is worth reading in full, particularly for the little documentary in the middle, which gives a better sense of how this technology works, as well as an eerie and innovative design element that causes images to elude the viewer scrolling through the article.)
Taser International–the company that makes those ubiquitous nonlethal electrocution devices–is also rolling out a pair of products, a head-mounted camera called Axon Flex (think Google Glass for cops), and a companion web service called Evidence.com.
On some intuitive level, at first glance, the Axon Flex system seems wrong–a further escalation of the asymmetrical battles so often fought between the beat cop and the perp. Watching the videos presented on the Verge seem evocative of dystopian science fiction, an on-the-ground, distributed version of the Panopticon. Anyone who has seen “Strange Days” will remember the eerie first-person snuff tape that begins that film. The gun, the Taser, and the camera can all be instruments of aggression–there’s a reason we use the verb “shoot” with all of them. And plenty of academics have waxed theoretical about the power between the person behind the camera and the person in front of it; the gazed-at is often seen as subordinate to the gazer.