Moving between recent video scenes of police violence, the case history around use of force and “reasonable fear” doctrine, and conceptualizations of police and policing, Benedict Stork situates the inscription of fear in both law and images as an expression of the fundamental antagonism between the police and the policed. Fear, when invoked by the police in defenses of use of lethal force, is often understood as a cruel irony and falsification, but this fear encoded in law nonetheless expresses a real and constitutive fear at the heart of policing. This police fear is the flip side of the fear experienced by the policed; neither equivalent nor inverted, these fears are immanent to one another. Where “reasonable fear” produces an affect admissible in courts, the videos that circulate as evidence inside and outside court produce a mise-en-scene of policing where these opposed fears become legible.
Benedict Stork is a Lecturer in Film Studies at Seattle University. He has published articles in Teaching Media Quarterly, Cultural Critique, and Film Criticism.