Media coverage can make or break the police department

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The 1st Amendment stated that we all have the right to freedom of speech. The freedom of speech is what drives the Media when reporting criminal cases or other subjects regarding the police department. Media coverage can make or break the police department. In lieu of this, the media often times hurt investigations and indirectly paints a negative picture of the police department. The perception of what is reported is based on the public's psychological backgrounds. The public are often time misinformed and from this is made to make judgement based on misinformation.

Reporting live from WLTX, News 19, a child was found in the dumpsters behind a local, upscale restaurant this morning. The child is suffering from the effects of starvation and dehydration. The authorities do not have a lead in this case. In other world news, the authorities are being seen here in this case struggling to place a suspected robbery in handcuffs to be taken to the station for further investigations. The authorities are clearly having difficulty securing the suspect and has to use other reinforces to do so. In celebrity chat, a well-known rap tycoon was stopped for a broken taillight. The artist believes that he was stopped because of the lavish car he was driving and not because of the taillight excuse. We were unable to reach the authorities for comments at this time. Media coverage like this and others has had adverse effects on the police department-negative portrayal of the authorities.

Freedom of the Press-Freedom to be informed

The First Amendment of the constitution is design to give everyone the right to be heard and to speak. "The first article of the Bill of Rights forbids Congress from tampering with the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and the press (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991)". To simplify, the public has the right to freedom of speech and has the right to be informed by the press.

According to the First Amendment, "the rights of freedom of speech and of press guarantee citizens access to information needed to meet civic responsibilities (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991). The constitution believed that the people of this nation must be informed because informed citizens can influence American government (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991). This must have freedom came about "from a long struggle in British and American history. For centuries it had been a crime to criticize the king or his government, and critics suffered many injustices. Freedom of the press was controlled through licensing acts authorizing censors to unapproved books, and unlicensed printing presses were ""melted and sawed in pieces, broken or battered"" and scrap was returned to the print shop owner (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991)." The press did not find its voice until John Peter Zenger emerged on the scene of the media frenzy. Zenger, the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, was charged with seditious libel for publishing articles that criticized the royal governor for a particular action (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991). The outcome of Zenger's charge was that he was acquitted on the grounds that his published work was the truth (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991). Zenger's victory birthed a new found freedom speech that the media used to report the news of current and past events. From these turn events, the press responsibilities includes the responsibility to provide truthful, intelligent information, serve as forum for exchange of comment and criticism, project an accurate picture of contingent groups in society, clarify the goals of society, and should provide access to day's intelligence (Baird, 199).

From the above birth of the freedom of speech and press, controversial debates were enacted (The Bill of Rights and Beyond 1991). It has been long time debated whether or not the press has more freedom than it should have in reporting information. This especially holds true for the reporting of criminal related activities in regards to the press. The Press has gotten so out of hand that some believe something has to be done to counteract the effect the Press has on the public. Carter Woods, news reporter and senior communication advisor at the National Association of Manufacturers, investigated whether or not Congress should enact a shield that would protect the press' sources and especially the Press (Wood, 2008). This particular shield would give the Press even more lead way to report information for various sources (Wood, 2008).

The Press use to be considered a most trusted form of information, but lately, the press has not been on the good end of the information age. "These are, to say the least, unsettling times for the news biz. Not so long ago--in 1976, to be exact--about 7 out of 10 Americans trusted the press, a Gallup survey found. In the same year, the National Opinion Research Center reported that confidence in the news media was almost as high as the average level of confidence in other major U.S. institutions (Tolson, 2004)." This is to say that the Press is not exactly what the public sees as trustworthy. However, regardless of the trust issue that the public has with the press, the views of the public is deeply shaped by the press-especially in reporting crimes in relations to police department on a national base.

Police Culture-To Protect and to Serve

"It is a cop thing, you wouldn't understand (Crank 2008)." This is a sentiment that has been shared by the general public for decades. What exactly is a cop and where did these permanent fixtures of society emerged from? To answer this means to explore the culture of the police and to what extent did cultural situations shaped the cop of the norm. A complex question such as this would no doubt yield a complex answer.

To be a police is not a technical thing but rather a mind thing. In essence being a cop is a state of mind (Crank 2008). Police work is far too often thought of as corruption, heavy force, testimonials, and all other dark sided things that appear in the majority of one's mind (Crank 2008). In actuality, "these themes are weighty ideological hammers and clumsy for the weight, too unwieldy to mere out the diversity and subtlety of police culture (Crank 2008)." To simplify, the emphasis on themes such as corruption, heavy force, testimonials and danger does not depict the actual police as they are in society.

Although society often have the belief that the duty of a police officer is to "preserve the peace" (Swanson 208), this duty alone does not lie in the hands of the police or authorities but also in the individuals of society (Swanson 208). In fact, keeping peace comes from other realms of society such as "preventing crimes, recovering stolen property, and providing assistance to the prosecution of persons charged with acts of criminality (Swanson 208). On the average, 15 percent of their time is spent on enforcing the law and the remaining 85 percent of their time maintaining the publics' order and well being (Swanson 208). The table below clearly depict the duties that society believes is the most influential of police officers done through a survey (Schafer 2001):

Strongly Agree

Agree Somewhat

Disagree Somewhat



Enforcing the law if by far the most responsibility of officers





Police officers have reason to be distrustful of most citizens





A good patrol officer is one who patrols aggressively by stopping cars, checking out people, running license checks





Assisting citizens is just as important as enforcing the law





A good patrol officer will try to find out what residents think the neighborhood problems





In order to do their jobs, patrol officers must sometimes overlook search and seizure laws and other legal guidelines





Public's Views Shaped by the Press in regards to the Police

The Press has long time been both a friend and enemy to the Police. To begin with, the Police Department have been often times viewed as not a vital organization founded on the grounds of to protect and serve, but rather on the belief that the authorities are corrupt, uncaring, placed in positions to harass the public, and involved in legal activities themselves. The press/media enhances this view of the public by reporting pieces of stories rather than the story in itself entirety. "When it comes to reporting crime news there is journalistic tension between those objectives norms that call for images that reflect actual crime in amount of type, and those organizational actual crime in the amount and type, and those organizational norms that recognize that crime stories are a commodity whose audience or market value may be higher (Barack, 1994)."

Mass Communication Age is perhaps the most significant source of information that the average public comes to know the world outside their normal inhabitants (Barack, 1994). In essence, the representation of the news conveyed to the public by the media is the primary source for the average individual to become acquainted with crime (Barack, 1994). "Crime stories produced by the news media in this country reveal as much about the American experience and U.S. values as they do about crime and the administration of justice (Barack, 1994). This leads to a broader audience to have a wider range of perceptions about crime and justice (Barack, 1994). These perceptions help shapes an awareness of crime, victim/offender encounters, and of the administration of justice (Barack, 1994). The reporting of information not only shapes the perception of the public but has three major negative effect on the police department.

One major negative effect that the media have on the police is that often times the media reports leads to links of privilege information to the public (Swanson, 2008). An example of this would be the Sniper Case of Washington D.C. where the media, in reporting the events and occurrences that surrounded the case, reported too much information about the shooting as well as the suspect which put restraints of the police investigation (Swanson, 2008). Although it was the intentions of the media to inform the public, their reporting caused his and many other cases not be solved in a timely manner to prevent further crimes and victims.

The second major effect that the media bestowed upon the police is when reporters or journalists reveal information that is actual investigative or have legal significance but the media would not conform the information or reveal its sources (Swanson, 2008). The media claims that the First Amendment gives them the right to protect their sources and under no circumstances will they have to reveal where they got their reported information. (Swanson, 2008). This type of protection allows the media to be able to report basically what he or she wishes without having to reveal the sources. In doing so, not only sometimes misinform the public but also an also often time causes conflict between the media and the police.

The last major effect that the media has on the police is the off the record reporting (Swanson, 2008). Off the record information can be best defined as information a member of the force may have been misquoted on (Swanson, 2008). Often times this misquotations of information pertains to press being on the scene of bank robberies, gangland killings, and hostage situations or even in kidnapping incidents (Swanson, 2008). When the media misquotes a piece of information, often times it is not in the interest of the police department, most of the time, it is the interest of ratings (Barack, 1994).

Although conflicts arise between the media and the police causing negative effects, the police do well to maintain a civilize relationship with the media. It is vital that police administrations do so because media can be a powerful friend or devastating enemy of a local police officer (Swanson, 2008). When the police and the media are enemies of the other, the above incidents are likely to occur. Therefore to restrict these occurrences, police administrations must remain cordial to the media restrict these incidents for happening.

What causes the public to be taken by the media and what shapes the public perception?

When the media reports information surrounding the police and criminal activities, the public immediately must make decisions as to the meaning of the information being conveyed by the media-making sense of what is heard through organization called perception (Goss, 1989). It is often the tendencies of society to put what is heard in a simple and orderly form to reduce any confusions; in doing so, a the public demonstrates the following perceptual tendencies (Goss, 1989):

Familiarity-This is the part where you identify the information you heard based on the information you already know (Goss, 1989). For example, the media may report that a baby was found abandon on the doorsteps of the church. Since you already know the value of life and the bond that a mother and child has you already know that this is a bad situation. Therefore, the report of the media allows you to identify this information as being tragic.

Expectations-"You see what you expect to see. You hear what you want to hear (Goss, 1989). Even though the baby was abandon, if you want to see beyond the picture in front of your face you would in that you would explore the option that maybe the mother could not afford to care for the child. If you want to only see what is at hand, you would probably see that the mother is bad person for leaving her child out in the cold.

Process-Being able to form a recognizable whole from what you see or hear (Goss, 1989). This part can be viewed like that much of a building under construction-continuing to perceive until completeness (Goss, 1989).

Product-After the process begins, products are then yielded. "Your past experience have left you with a number of percepts (Goss, 1989)."

The media uses all the above perceptual tendencies to draw attention to criminal acts and undesirable of the police department. This is why the media has been so successful in stirring up the public to put fire under the authorities to rid society of crime invested places.


The Police and the Media have long time befriended the other for their mutual gain. The Media proclaims to keep the public informed by reporting information while at the same time keeping their ratings up. The Police Department has utilized the thirst of the media to get information to a criminal. Both the Police and the Media are guilty of using the public for their personal gain. It may the right for the Media to inform and the right for the Police to protect and serve, but as the general public, we have the right to have our views shaped by genuine truth and honesty of information reported by the media and the police. Nevertheless, I find the media guilty in indirectly affecting the police department in negative ways.