THE POWER OF AUTHORITY
Personal safety in public space has become a significant issue and concern. When citizens on a busy street are in need of help, they scan
the crowds of pedestrians looking for the distinctive uniform of a police officer. The uniform which represents authority, power and is there
to reassure safety. Recent events of threat have changed the visual representation of policemen in the public space - prominent guns, high boots and massive protection gear. These representatives play a major role in the way they communicate through their body language. By transforming their appearance, they have gained an authority which is more threatening rather than caressing. It has built a psychological border between them and the public.
This project investigates the elements of gaining power through body language and the switch of if throughout history due to the transformation of the uniform. It is a well-known fact that the posture influences our perception of another person. ’’The power of authority’’ reveals the influence of certain postures of policemen on pedestrians in public space on day to day basis. It is a poetic translation of the authority impact on our wellbeing.
This project was striking to me for various reasons. I started the research into this topic because I did not feel safe while around policemen, their presence would make me anxious, this anxiety was mainly caused due to their appearance, uniform which drastically changed their body.
During my research, I saw the rapid switch between military forces and police. What surprised me the most was maybe the difference of the policemen presence in public space now and during World War 2. Back then police uniforms were made to be different from the army, that way making sure that the citizens would feel safe on the streets. If we look at the police force on the streets nowadays, the difference from the military force is not that significant. Tool belts have gotten heavier, boots higher and addition of sunglasses even blocks the possibility to make eye contact with them.
This constant addition and change to their appearance do not play in favour of the policemen themselves as there have been cases of self-injury during work because there was no training for the gun, for example.
When we think about power and authority we think big, something higher than us (literally). After conducting this research I do not believe that significant way of showing power through visual appearance is the best approach for the police. To create a healthy dialogue between the public and the police things need to change.
Design Academy Eindhoven, Graduation project, 2019
1904 - 1954
1960 - 2012
2013 - 2019
Policemen gesture dictionary through time (change of the gestures due to the uniform change)
Research book which shows the variation and change of the police uniform through time and countries.