Crime and social justice topic of everyday conversation

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Abstract

The world in general is fascinated with crime and social justice. This is quite evident from newspapers, magazines, movies, books, television broadcasts, and even in the everyday conversations, people are constantly participating in 'crime talk' and they enjoy it. The media plays a significant role in the shaping of crime and the criminal justice system. The way the society perceives victims, criminals, social deviants, and law enforcement agencies are pertinently influenced by the way they are portrayed in the mass media. This paper utilizes newspaper articles (published in 2010) as primary sources of data to examine how issues of policing (human rights and police reforms) are represented in the media.

Introduction

This article depicts how human rights issues are represented in the media. Current studies have displayed the media (specifically mass media) as being more open, varied, persistent, and powerful than previous researchers had argued. The media not only does it report on occurrences but also directly participates in the processes of which such occurrences are composed and take form in the world. The mass media is inseparable from people and the various channels they use in seeking justice but is an integral of their daily processes in their quest for justice. It is in this particular process of participating in these different activities of seeking justice that the mass media exposes injustices and highlights the importance of accountability in contemporary policing measures that are undertaken by States as well as their security machineries, which makes them become subject to regulation and reforms.

Methodology

This dissertation utilizes newspapers (published in 2010) as primary sources of data to examine how issues of policing (human rights and police reforms) are represented in the media. First, an internet search is conducted and articles are selected from top Australian newspapers as well as global newspapers. The articles are summarized and analyzed then followed by an integrated analysis and discussion on how policing issues are represented in the media.

Data collection

POLICING AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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The Economist, "How Syria controls its dissidents." September 30, 2010. The Economist, print edition. http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=348951&story_id=17155868

Syria has resorted to ban critics from traveling abroad. Even though it the statistics are not easy to compile, traveling bans are continually issued by Syria's opaque security agencies. Human-rights activists posit that Syrian bans have continued o increase considerably since 2006. A veteran activist, such as Mazen Darwish, a former head of the "Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression", which was shut down, is one of the people banned from travelling by the Syrian government. Other prominent Syrians including writers and lawyers among others who work for international organisations, are being stooped frequently at the borders finding whenever they are set off to attend international functions. Habitually, those who do attend are banned from re-entering. Dissidents have been repressed and spied upon since America's invasion of Iraq. Travelling bans are common throughout the Middle East: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, and the UAE all impose them. Israel also controls the movement of Palestinians within its territory and can ban Palestinian politicians from travelling abroad. Nevertheless, Syria is termed as the worst offender of all the Gulf States.

ABC online, "Police face trial for lynching suicide bomber", Sunday May 2, 2010. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/02/2887915.htm

In this article, Iraqi police are captured on video lynching a failed suicide bomber and the video clip is broadcasted by a satellite television station. The officers face human rights charges, as reported by the government. Images of the incident, which took place on February 28, 2007. This was at the helm of Iraq's ethnic clashes when security forces were the main targets by terrorists. In this article police are caught in the act of gross violation of human rights and they receive worldwide condemnation.

The West Australian, "Fears of rise in police brutality", 2010. Accessed online from: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/newshome/7038767/fears-of-rise-in-police-brutality/

This article points out growing high handedness by West Australian police based on Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) statistics. It is noted that police brutality complaints have taken a high notch since the assault by police on Const. Matthew Butcher barely two years ago. The figures obtained from CCC indicated that, complaints on police cruelty rose from 175 in 2007 to 202 in 2008 and 201 in 2009. However, there was a general decline of complaints against police over that period.

New York Times, "Top Official to Investigate Police Conduct", October 22, 2010, accessed online from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/nyregion/22police.html?_r=1&ref=police_brutality_and_misconduct

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This article talks about issues of accountability. Unquestionably, police are expected to be answerable to the law, any form of illegal activities are punishable under criminal law, while other offences require disciplinary actions. The media plays a significant role of highlighting forms of accountability and lack of it to the public; the media enlightens the public. The instruments of accountability available include; criminal and civil courts, independent tribunals, public complaints boards and of most importance codes and regulations governing police practices. However, recently there is an increase in popularity of democratic political control as an instrument of accountability, since law enforcement policy is based on political choice.

Jagland, T, "Why we honor Liu Xiaobo a Nobel." New York Times, online edition October 22, 2010.

Chinese authorities' condemnation of the Nobel laurite, Liu Xiaobo-a jailed political activist, purposely illustrates that human rights are worth defending. In as much as Chinese authorities are asserting that no one has the right to meddle in China's affairs, they are wrong. Human rights are universal and the global community has a duty to ensure that they are honored.

The contemporary state system developed from the notion of sovereignty created by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. However, the imprisonment of Mr. Liu's exposes the inconsistency that exists between China's criminal law and its Constitution. Mr. Liu was convicted of "spreading rumors… to subvert the state power or overthrow the socialist system." In the global community that is based on universal human rights, a government should not act on opinions and rumors. The Chinese government is obliged to ensure that there is freedom of expression.

PerthNow "Guantanamo: My Journey - the David Hicks story," October 15, 2010. Accessed from: http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/guantanamo-my-journey-the-david-hicks-story/story-e6frg12c-1225939299925

This is a comprehensive review of a book, Guantanamo: My Journey, published by Random House about a young man (David Hicks) from suburban Adelaide who was apprehended in Afghanistan on accusations that he was collaborating with the Taliban in 2001. The Guantanamo bay prison is described as a prison where "even dogs won't live''. David Hicks spent more than five in custody at the US military prison, identified by Bush as a "the worst of the worst." David Hicks together with other prisoners were initially detained in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, as the permanent facilities within Camp Delta were still under construction. The most basic of all the facilities, Camp X-Ray were a series of adversities: experience with torture elements, deprivation of sleep as well as mental and physical mistreatment.

Bita, N, "Shock tactics on deadly display" The Australian. October 06, 2010. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/shock-tactics-on-deadly-display/story-e6frg6n6-1225934565258

This article investigates fears that the lethal Taser gun is being abused by Australian police. The gun is said to send victims writhing and roaring in pain, unarmed men are shot mercilessly at close range with the gun. After three years of use by the Australian police, the Taser gun is being used as an instrument of terrorization rather than what it is meant for, a weapon of last resort. The gun is being used just like the traditional methods of physical restraint such as batons and capsicum sprays. The NSW Greens are lobbying for an inquiry into Taser use following the death of a man shot at close range with a Taser gun. Poor policing in Western Australia have resulted in bizarre incidences like an Aboriginal man bursting into flames after being Tasered. The UN has termed stun guns as an "instrument of torture", and as "a violation of human rights".

Sweetman, T, "Bashings by Benjamin Price a wake-up call over rotten Queensland police culture" The Sunday Mail (Qld) October 17, 2010.

In this article, the image of the all Queensland police is tainted by videos showing a former officer Benjamin Price torturing two Australians. This incidence is watched all over the world and is described as the "most cowardly and disgusting displays of sadistic power-tripping they had seen". Most Queenslanders are disgusted by the rotten apple policing, and it's not just a matter of police bashing but that of wasted resources and trust.

The Jakarta Post, "Police Chief Candidate responds to human rights violation allegation," 2010. The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Thursday, October 14, 2010. Accessed from: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/10/14/police-chief-candidate-responds-human-rights-violation-allegation.html

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In this article, the Indonesian Police Chief candidate Gen. Timur Pradopo speaks out on the Trisakti incident in 1998. He posits that he is determined to make sure that security in West Jakarta is well maintained so as to avoid incidences like the 'deadly Trisakti incident'. The officer said the reason why he failed to act in response to the summons of the "Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights" was because he was acting on instructions from his bosses. He argued that at that particular time, he was not allowed to go to the "National Commission for Human Rights" because summon was delivered to his supervisors. However, he pledged to defend human rights during legal enforcement in the future.

POLICE REFORMS

Camana Bay Times, "Chile: Amend Anti-Terrorism Law and Military Jurisdiction", September 28 2010, http://www.camanabaytimes.com/chile-amend-anti-terrorism-law-and-military-jurisdiction/

This article discusses a report by a human rights watch in Chile. According to the article, anti- terrorism law in Chile needs to reform and its system of military justice should be limited. These reforms will make it impossible for them to take any legal action on serious crimes of political violence. This article focused on the possible steps that the legislative branch of the Chile government could take to amend the law on anti-terrorism and to limit the jurisdiction of the military.

The anti-terrorism legislation in Chile has been used on members of Mapuche who have committed ordinary crimes. However this law is considered to be one of the harshest laws in Chile since it's made up of penalties such as; evidence being withheld from the defense for a maximum of six months by the prosecution, pretrial release is made difficult, among others. Several bodies of the United Nations have shown their concern on the use of the law on individuals who have committed common crimes. They suggested that the law should only be applied to those that commit terrorism crimes.

Australian Newspapers, "Police accountability", accessed online from: http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/31751110?searchTerm=police+accountability

This article is in no way arguing that the police and the media are at logger heads, however the environment in which strategic policing issues are implemented is complex. Hence all parties must cooperate and in some cases certain elements of their respective roles overlap, implying tensions can emerge sometimes occur. This is exacerbated mostly by the vigorous and competitive market in which media fraternities operate. In Australia for example, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has had its fair share of conflicts with the media.

Jones, L "Police look to break down barriers." South Wales Echo, October 9, 2010.

On October 9, 2010, Lisa Jones, a reporter of South Wales echo, reported that South Wales's most senior black police officer, Jay Dave, spoke about addressing the barriers that exist between police staff and minority communities. He urged police officers to evaluate all preconceptions they may hold in order to develop understanding between the black communities and the police and enhance appreciation of the cultural diversity. The report illustrates that Jay Dave's comments were motivated by the words of Peter Vaughan, the chief constable of South Wales's police. Vaughan is said to have been a major advocate for championing the needs of the black community and diversity in terms of culture and values.

A critical review into this media report reveals the ultimate need for appreciation of ethnically diverse environments, and the need for the police to engage in ethics training in order to appreciate this diversity. As Dave puts it, there is need for peaceful coexistence between the police and the black community; therefore the police should dismiss existing preconceptions and appreciate the diversity of these people. To accurately interpret this diversity, they should undergo through serious training for justice ethics. This coexistence between the police and the community will also promote Neighborhood Watch, since community members can freely interact with the police without barriers, and hence report any suspected form of crime.

Travis, A. "Police reforms have failed to increase time officers spend on patrol." http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/02/police-reforms-review-white-paper The Guardian UK, Wednesday 2 December 2009.

This article talks about the failure of UK government's policing to make significant progress as officers are still wasting time on their duties due to bureaucracy. The implemented strategy of providing police officers with handheld computers has failed since the machines are unable to store information on cases; hence the officers have to come back to the station to process each incident. The government is also accused of failing to strengthen local accountability partnerships.

Krainova, N. "Kremlin Council Offers Police Reforms", The Moscow Times, October 7, 2010. Accessed from: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kremlin-council-offers-police-reforms/418613.html

In this article, The Kremlin's human rights council has proposed a set of amendments to a controversial police bill to President Dmitry Medvedev. These amendments are aimed at having a leaner police force; with more pay higher for officers and frequent meetings with the public-where the public can air their frustrations to the police. Other proposals include the replacement of the interior ministry's public council with an autonomous "system" and the conducting of opinion polls to the Interior Ministry to access its performance. Current policing strategies are largely influenced by the unique economic and social environment that is always changing. Police services in Russia and the rest of the world are being asked to handle an increasing number of complex and conflicting issues.

Hope, C. "Theresa May unveils radical police shake-up plans." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7911537/Theresa-May-unveils-radical-police-shake-up-plans.html. The Telegraph, July 2010.

This article highlights police reforms such as: police chiefs should be elected, an overall review of police compensation and benefits and the adoption of the American-style "National Crime Agency as from 2013, to replace the dishonored 'Serious Organized Crime Agency'. In the new strategy, Police officers will be encouraged more to use their discretion as opposed to the conventional overbearing health and safety guidelines. The move is intended to revive the link between the police and the society. In another Home Office document released to go hand in hand with the reforms indicated that the Government was intending to have more citizens in communities work with the police in crime-fighting.

Morgan, D. "Police reforms 'are not needed." Northwichguardian, September 25, 2010, accessed from: http://www.northwichguardian.co.uk/news/8407766.Police_reforms__are_not_needed_/

This article highlights how CHESHIRE Police Authority is vehemently opposing major proposed reforms of electing a police commissioner in Cheshire. This move is expected to see residents voting for a police commissioner who would be in charge of setting police goals and priorities for more than one million people. The reforms are meant to allow the people to vote for a candidate who would be in charge of police budgets and to eliminate barriers that hinder the efficient working of the police. The authority on its part welcomed the move to reduce bureaucracy and return to revert to a more common-sense type of policing and, in lieu of the current financial position, the pledge to relax many of the barriers that are currently standing in the way of effective partnership between police forces and the community.

Findings and Discussions

Globally, police powers are constantly under scrutiny by the society, the media, lawbreakers, sufferers, politicians, commissions of inquiries and tribunals. The most accountable police services and forces in the world are in the United States, UK, some parts of Europe, Canada and Australian. In Australia for example, the media seems to have developed an obsessive focus on the police, the media perceives itself as an advocate in charge of questioning almost every part of police functions and powers.

The police are highly visible under the magnifying glasses of the media, their actions and functions are observable and they are put on in the spotlight at every occasion. In addition, police activities are also scrutinized through media enquiries, ombudsmen, autonomous tribunals, anti-corruption commissions, police complaints board, criminal justice inquires, and royal commissions among other interdisciplinary investigative mechanisms.

Issues of police accountability in Australia are often linked with the need for reforms in police structures, powers, functions and particular police roles.

Media scrutiny of policing and community participation in checking police accountability has been phenomenal in the past decade. This has sparked more public inquiries by the Royal Commissions into the police services of Queensland and New South Wales. Australia has reached a point where its public police services are feeling absolutely wearied by the numerous accountability inquiries (formal and informal) that they face. However it is important for the Australian government policing services to stay transparent in their definition of their services as well as their delivery and it is critical for the strategic policing practices to include the measurement of local community responsibility.

Newspapers and other mass media tends to overstate the proportion of crimes that result in apprehension which paints an image that police are doing their job more responsibly than demonstrated in official statistics. The positive perception of strategic policing can partly be attributed to police's public relations approach. The reporting of practical police activities fashions a positive perception of the police as more accountable and efficient investigators of crime.

Media practitioners do not merely focus on street crimes and violence; they actively participate in the championing of reforms, especially that of police services.

Police deviance in the form of corruption, brutality, racism, and misconduct are much of preoccupation of the media. The significant role played by the media as an active agent of police reforms as a research area that has not been adequately covered and analyzed. When the media exposes police corruption or injustice, the stories stir a sense of urgency with regard to the need for action to tackle such practices.

Ideally, police services seek to enhance their public image by adopting specific media units that are responsible for the provision of information to media houses. Some of the large police services, on the other hand, have authorized specific police officers to give substantial information to the media that is of public interest. In doing so, the media ensures that issues of 'enclosure' and "disclosure' are protected as judiciously required. Whenever police deviance is made public by the media, police organisations always seek to effect damage control. They do so by trying to minimize the issue, by passing the blame to a few individuals-scapegoats. Police forces are more likely to be effective and successful in their concession of public image if they can effectively implement reforms that will increase their ability to govern themselves.

Conclusion

In conclusion, positive police perception reinforces conventional policing strategies in the maintenance of law and order that include; increased police powers, stricter posit that there is a symbiotic association between popular media and the police. They indicate that the media and the police are involved in a mutually productive relationship. Media personnel need the police to provide them with fresh, reliable crime information, while the police need the media to display them positively in their operations.