Policing Strategic Issues In Popular Media Criminology Essay

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Walker relies on the findings of his earlier study on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police department (CMPD), North Carolina (in which he examined the topic of problem-oriented policing) to present a framework that could be replicated by other police departments in measuring their efforts regarding institutionalization of police reforms.

The author reviews community policing, problem-oriented policing, and the institutionalization nature of the same reforms. Ikerd and Walker also identify three data source that can be used for measuring a police department's degree of institutionalization as assessing the cultures of junior officers, that of mid-level managers, and captains, with attention to attitudes, knowledge and behaviors. They say that the data is obtained through conducting random surveys among the members of the three levels. Ikerd and Walker goes ahead to aptly present and discuss the lessons (eleven) from previous recorded efforts at institutionalization, which makes the book a good source of insightful ideas for police reformists.

Polzin, MJ & RG DeLord, Police labor-management relations: a guide for implementing change, making reforms, and handling crises for managers and union leaders, vol. II, National Justice Reference Services, 2006, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/files/RIC/Publications/e06064103.pdf>.


This guide by Polzin and DeLord presents advice on how to effectively handle relationships by managers of police departments as well as police union leaders. It in addition outlines how implementation of change can be done in an all-inclusive way. The guide details how to start, build, and formalize a cooperative relationship between police management and police unions. Chapter three describes a problem-solving technique that is interest-based, and whose key goals and application on real life situations is demonstrated by the use of simulated real-life challenges.

Wilder, A, Cops or robbers? The struggle to reform the Afghan National Police, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, 2007 retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:mczIaMxw2zQJ:www.areu.org.af/index.php%3 Foption%3Dcom_docman%26task%3Ddo c_download%26gid%3D523+cops+or+rob ers+afghan+police&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&src id=ADGEESi_9urYJeSemMFQczzImFEEYIOxRwq-Syv2L p_mXvZ0zqy1-YEA8tNEJuGNFCdz Tfp2f6_09V2xgMWB4EqGhrSs5KPbT5ORb-yNBKQhrvx0lCrm-UxxH1J8OAd58JkYktpqd2HK&sig=AHIEtbSi3 msJX5sLLU5I5nT_KVURKxMzJg>.


This paper discusses five major police reforms that must be implemented in the Afghan police for it to improve chances of registering success amidst the huge operational challenges encountered; development of a shared vision and strategy, tying donor assistance to comprehensive implementation of reforms in the Ministry of Interior, introduction of a rule-of-law strategy-that is comprehensive and integrated-in place of Security Sector Reforms, prioritization of quality in the Afghan National Police(ANP) over numbers, as well as the need to prioritize the sustainability of Afghan security sector by the major actors(Afghan government, the E.U Police Mission in Afghanistan). It also provides an overview of the effort made since 2002 in policing in Afghanistan. The paper outlines the structure as well as the functions of the police force in the country.

Sabet, D, Police reform in Mexico: advances and persistent obstacles, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://wilsoncenter.org/topics/pubs/Police%20Reform%20in%20Mexico.%20Sabet.pdf>.


Daniel Sabet emphasizes the great need that exists for police reforms in Mexico, a country that is widely reputed for its organized crimes, perpetrated especially by violent drug gangs. Various attempts to introduce reforms in the police force by several recent administrations are discussed and their success analyzed. The report also provides vital statistics concerning the activities of the police in order to enhance the argument for introduction of reforms. The report elaborates the requirement for high professionalism in the police force if the reforms are ever to be successfully implemented, since currently in Mexico the police are perceived to be part of the problem of crime problem rather than being part of the solution. Sabet notes that the accusations of the police range from human rights abuse, in the form of torture, collusion with criminals, corruption, and general ineffectiveness in the areas of stemming violence, intelligence gathering as well as in carrying out investigations. The report indicated that the problems are ironically perpetuated by Mexican's deep seated lack of confidence in their police force. The report's significance is in the fact that that it covers issues in a country where introduction of police reforms has proven to be very difficult if not impossible. It aides in highlighting the major challenges that can be encountered in implementing police reforms anywhere in addition to providing invaluable lessons from failed police reform attempts.

Neild, R, 'Democratic police reforms in war-torn Societies', Conflict, Security & Development, 1478-1174, vol.1, no.1, 2001, pp.21- 43.


In this article, Neild reviews the primary issues that surround introduction and implementation of police reforms in societies torn by armed conflicts. Neild examines issues regarding police force composition as well as the 'dilemma of demobilization' both of which are paramount to the reinforcement of the political legitimacy in introduced reforms. The article argues for actor to understand police reforms as not just a process of transfer of skills from donors, because weak judiciary, authoritarian cultures that are deeply embedded, and high crime rates. Neild discusses the contribution of these factors to the move by authorities in war-torn societies to increase the powers of their police force, or even introduce their militaries in public administration and law enforcement, thus putting into jeopardy newly-won democratic rights. The article borrows from studies that indicate the urgency in police becoming respectful and responsive in order to win public cooperation, and adds that such an engagement requires a strategy that is multicultural in nature and that encompasses actors from diverse sectors: from the civilian as well as military police in peacekeeping operations in the war torn areas to donors who give support for strengthening economic, democratic institutional, and social development.

Annotated Bibliographies on Use of Force by the Police

Jared, S et al. 'Use of force by law enforcement: An evaluation of safety and injury', Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care, 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://journals.lww.com/jtrauma/Abstract/publishahead/Use_of_Force_by_Law_Enforcement__An_Evaluation_of.99603.aspx>.


This research paper examines the types and frequencies of injuries from the use of force by law enforcement officers. Retrospective data collection approach is used and data collected from law enforcement Use of force forms (UOF). Medical records are used as well. The research findings are that more than three fourths of victims of excess use of force by the police are men, with types of force including blows by arms/legs, Tasers, capsicum sprays, and impacts from firearms. The research report says that the majority of victims of the use of force tend to have either psychiatric problems or substance abuse. This research provides critical statistics and patterns for analysis and explanation of the observations.

Smith, MR et al., Multi-method evaluations of police use of force outcomes, National Justice Reference Services, 2007, retrieved 6 September 2010, <www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/231176.pdf>.


This document makes a presentation of the major findings made from a study on the results of the use of force by police officers. Findings from the studies show that nearly half of local and State law enforcement agencies in the United States permit the use of OC spray for the purposes of quelling passive resistance, while another one-fifth to a third permitted the application of Conducted Electrical Devices (CEDs). These devices were found to be successful in cutting down the risks of injury to suspects as well as law enforcement officers. The findings also revealed that CEDs were preferred to OC Sprays by officers in quelling passive resistances and were used up to five times more often than OC spray. This study obtained data through methods such as; conducting a survey of more than five hundred law enforcement officers in local and State agencies (which provided an insight into the degree of use of less lethal technologies, policies, as well as training), and a comprehensive analysis of for the purpose of identification of both situational and individual injury predictors. This document provides a good basis upon which the introduction and consequent acceptance of some devices in the work of law enforcement can be advocated for or against. However, the study tended to focus on the use of force on dealing with single, isolated individuals and did not provide a framework for dealing with situations where a crowd is involved.

'Disgraced policeman caught on CCTV assaulting soldier during arrest is jailed for three years', The Mail, 3 September 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1308023/Policeman-assaulted-soldier-arresting-jailed-3-years.html?ITO=1490>.


This newspaper report highlights the rights of individuals during the process of arrest by law enforcement officers. Individuals have the right not be subjected to inhumane treatment if they cooperate with the arrest. It also brings to fore the increased acceptance of video surveillance as admissible evidence against crime suspects in courts. Assault on suspects is criminalized and carries a jail sentence and in this regard the policeman who assaulted a drunken soldier was sentenced to three months in jail. The judge reiterated the duty of police officers not to abuse power and trust that comes with their position by unleashing violence on unarmed public.

Bohrer, S & R Chaney, 'Police investigations of the use of deadly force can influence perceptions and outcomes', Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/2010/january2010/police_feature.htm>.


This article explores different perceptions that exist in different quarters about law enforcement officers, such as amongst the law enforcement officers themselves, the general public, the media, the police department, the criminal justice authorities, among others. The article explores the need for the law enforcement agencies to handle carefully allegations of use of excessive force by law enforcers, for the kind of investigation that is carried out following such an act can have huge implications, both bad and good, on the perceptions created on the use of force by police officers. The authors discuss an outline of various perceptions about events involving the use of force by police officers, together with some six aspects that law enforcement agencies can include in investigative procedures on officers accused of involvement in use of excessive force, especially shootings and which can go a long way in ensuring fair, judicious, and consequently trust-building investigation outcomes. The critical role that a healthy working relationship between investigators and the media plays is also examined. Although the article thoroughly discusses the management of perceptions about use of force by the Police, it tends to focus more on managing the consequences such acts and fails to explore ways can be reduced.

Zoyab, A, 'Killing India's Poor with Impunity', The Guardian, 14 June 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/journalismcompetition/killing-india-poor-with-impunity>.


Zoyab explores the issue of brutality by the Indian Police on the poor in the society. Rampant victimization of the family members of absconding suspects by the police is a major issue highlighted by the author. He in addition brings to fore the extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Indian police especially on the poor. Zoyab's article is significant in exposing the failure by the authorities in India to reign in on a rogue police force which, instead of protecting and upholding human rights, is in the forefront of violating the same with impunity, a common occurrence across the third world countries.

Representations of Police Reforms and Use of Force by Police in the Popular Media


The image of a police force that is portrayed by the media varies widely from country to country. In general terms, Police forces in the developed countries are perceived to be highly professional and are under strict legal obligation to uphold basic human rights and freedoms. On the other hand, the police forces of some countries with little democratic space are often thought to be hostile to the pubic. Further, the police force is often politicized in these countries and used as a tool for unleashing terror on elements considered as dissidents. The media also plays an invaluable role in shaping the perceptions of any police force. [1] 

This paper evaluates the representation in the media of two strategic issues in Policing; Police reforms and use of force by the police, and in respect of each an evaluation of a sample of five recent reports in the media is done to determine the degree of accurate representation of the issues.

a) Use of force by the Police;

'Killing India's Poor with Impunity' [2] 

This is an article published in The Guardian newspaper of the U.K and in which the brutality of the police in India is highlighted. The article uses an instance where, Pahallu Musahar, a resident of Uttar Pradesh claims suffering severe brutality at the hands of the police, who accuse him and his family of hiding his absconding brother. In addition, the police are accused of charging the poor farmer with fake cases of making gun cartridges and drugs possession. The article further makes an observation of increased cases of police brutality-including extrajudicial killings-in India, despite the country making great strides in both economic development and expansion of democratic space over the last few decades. The author notes that the peasants of India have experienced serious erosion of both political and civil freedoms and rights, with the state accused of doing very little to curb the worrying trend. The writer quotes a 41.66% increase in the number of custodian killings since the year 2000 as reported by Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). The director of the human rights agency, Somas Chakma, remarks thus; "It is the common men or the "aam aadmi" who are the majority victims of torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment. However, the UPA government has failed to address the issue of torture and other human rights violations".2

The article appears to capture the worrying situation on the ground as regards the problems with policing in the area. It does not give an account of the police side of the story but nonetheless it does maintain credibility, as it clearly demonstrates that the police, instead of acting as law enforcers, actively engage in the acts that seriously break the laws they are supposed to uphold.

'Disgraced policeman caught on CCTV assaulting soldier during arrest is jailed for three years' [3] 

This article by the Daily Mail is about a police officer who was accused of using excessive force by assaulting a soldier who was off duty in the process of arresting him. The police officer was eventually convicted of the crime and sentenced to three years in jail. In passing its verdict on the matter, the court relied on CCTV video footage of the arrest, in which the accused policeman could be seen hitting the soldier using his helmet, in addition to pushing and rubbing the soldier's face onto the ground.

During the court proceedings the police officer had repeatedly lied that the soldier had resisted arrest violently, the result of which led to the conviction of the soldier of two counts of assaulting a police officer. The court later quashed the verdict when new evidence came up following the admission in court of CCTV footage as evidence.

In sentencing the accused, Judge Jeffrey Lewis remarked thus: "It is always an unpleasant and unwelcome duty to have to pass sentence on a police officer and this case is no exception".3 He further said: "The gravity of this offence speaks for itself. During this short-lived impulsive bout of violence, you abused your position of trust and power and inflicted unlawful violence on him. However badly Mr. Aspinall behaved on the night in question, he did not deserve to be treated as you treated him. You then lied and lied again about your conduct towards Mr. Aspinall,"3 stressing the gravity of accusations against Mr. Lightfoot.

Mr. Lightfoot's scandal-ridden past in the police force, especially his tendency to apply excessive force when dealing with suspects came to the attention of the court during his trial. This behavior had made Mr. Lightfoot to receive several warnings from his seniors, and had cost him a bravery award.

Mr. Lightfoot's two colleagues with whom he had conducted the arrest under scrutiny were cleared of the assault offence and ultimately released.

'Sultan Man Dies after Police Fired Taser Shot' [4] 

The article reports the death of a 25-year-old man after a police "Taser" was used on him. The Taser was developed for subduing suspects resisting arrest without causing lethal harm on the suspects. The man had been reported to have caused disturbances in a neighborhood by running up and down and yelling in the middle of the night. According to the article, the man confronted officers who had arrived to arrest him, after which he was shot with a stun gun which apparently killed him4. The report continues to say that the officers who were involved in the incidence had been placed on administrative leave according to normal standards followed in such cases.

The article notes that the death of the man from stun gun shot was the second in just a week.

The article goes further to give a brief account on what a Taser is and how it works; a small electrical current at high voltage is produced and delivered by the 'stun gun', and whose use is designed to make suspects resisting arrest to temporarily lose control of their flexible muscles so as to allow the arresting officer to handcuff the suspect with only a little harm to the suspect. The article states the reason of introducing Tasers was to assist law enforcement agencies in subduing belligerent, fleeing, or potentially dangerous suspects without the use of lethal force by the officers. However, the article notes, Tasers have become controversial due to some instances of use of the weapon causing serious injury on suspects, or even their death.

'Jury Awards Man $125,000 in Excessive Force Case' [5] 

This article reports a case where a man from Massachusetts is awarded $125,000 as damages for injuries he suffered in an encounter between him and the police. The man sued the police for using excessive force against him in one occasion of investigating him for suspected domestic violence. The article reports that the plaintiff had been restrained by the officers and kicked in the left knee, which resulted in interruption of his work as a carpenter due to rupturing of his knee ligaments. In an interesting verdict returned by the jury, the officers involved in the incident were found not to have used excessive force on the plaintiff, but rather they were found to have been negligent and hence liable for the incident5.

'Police Gunfire Kills 11-Year-Old in Kashmir' [6] 

This article captures an example of a case which aptly demonstrates that excessive use of force by the police still takes place in some countries in disturbing scales. The article reports Indian police officers opening fire with live rounds at demonstrating Kashmir residents, thereby killing a young boy of 11years and wounding 22 others. The article says that over 60 people died in the month of June 2010 alone in clashes between anti-India protestors and Indian police forces6. The brutal killing of the boy is said to have sparked anger among residents, leading to even more violent protests that forced the police to retreat from the hot spot.

At least two more people were reported to have received gunshot wounds following an attack by stone-throwing protestors on a police station, which resulted in security forces opening fire in a bid to quell the unrest. The article continued to report dissenting claims of some residents that the Indian police shot without any provocation. In addition, it quotes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as having expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which Indian police handle protests. The Prime minister then called for use of "non-lethal, yet effective and more focused measures".6

b) Police Reforms;

'Mayor announced new police reform plans' [7] 

This article reports the acknowledgment by the mayor of the city of Indianapolis for the need to transform the conduct of the city's police officers in order to regain public trust. This had been necessitated by a crash incident which involved an apparently drunk police officer from the Indianapolis Police Department, and which claimed the life of a motor cycle rider7. The article lists at length the changes desired in the police department as laid down by the city's mayor, which include; forbidding alcohol transportation by police officers in both marked and unmarked police vehicles; usage in accident scenes (involving the police) of breathalyzers; banning of intake of alcohol by officers within 8 hours to the commencement of a shift; and a new requirement for officers to report cases of, or suspicion of substance abuse by their colleagues.

Mayor Greg Billard is quoted in the report as saying: "Civilian trust in our police department is essential for safer neighborhoods, safer schools, a growing economy and a better Indianapolis…police officers must care and look out for one another. Not in a way that protects them, but rather in a way that protects the community that they serve"7. The mayor is further reported to have called for the reformation of the police training system as well as the merit recognition, in addition to adoption of zero tolerance policy towards substance and alcohol abuse. The Mayor continues to say that the department of public safety will strive to re-energize its effort to provide psychological help for officers dealing with issues to do with substance abuse and job stress, with the option of developing new programs left open.

'Police Reform Long Overdue' [8] 

This is an editorial of a newspaper in Zimbabwe, in which the supposed continued stay at the helm of the country's police force by the sitting Police Commissioner, one General Augustine Chihuri, is criticized. The editor observes that Mr. Chihuri had stayed at the position for nearly two decades and that many Zimbabweans actually wished to see his exit. The editorial quotes the Foreign Affairs minister as suggesting that President Mugabe intended to keep his Police Commissioner. The editorial touches on the opposition for such an action by the president especially from his partners in the countries makeshift coalition government, who want a total overhaul of the police department they view as a brutal machine used to unleash terror on the opponents of the government.

The editorial argues that the ability and willingness of the current Police Commissioner is the major concerns of the proponents of police reforms in Zimbabwe, where there is general agreement for the urgent need for reforms in the police force beginning at the very top.

The editorial recognizes the difficulty in introducing and implementing the sweeping changes proposed in the light of the country's political landscape and political atmosphere (the sitting Police commissioner is an important pillar of the President by virtue of being a member of The Joint Operations Command.

The editorial also notes the statement by the Global Political Agreement that "…the parties to the GNU are in agreement that security forces, including the police, need to undergo reform"8, which is seen as a key ingredient for the process of democratization in the country. It continues to call for a stronger fight against rampant corruption in the police force and which can only take off the ground through implementation of sweeping reforms in the country's police force.

The editorial however does not shy away from crediting Mr. Chihuri for leading a police force that has registered commendable success the fight against big crimes such as armed robbery and murder. It in the same breath it challenges Mr. Chihuri to extend his zeal in fighting crime to transforming the police force into a highly professional and internationally recognized police force which is respected for championing human rights and freedoms.

Zimbabwean police force is a unique force as it has been widely accused of all sorts of misconduct, especially in the last several years of President Mugabe's rule, especially since the beginning of the policy of compulsory redistribution of land from large-scale white farmers to small-scale black farmers.

'Police leaders attack government plans for sweeping reform' [9] 

This news article in the guardian newspaper brings to fore the views of police leaders on introduction of sweeping reforms in a police force. As a matter of fact the article quotes the leaders of the British police warning against such "dogma-driven" plans which according to them only results into making a country less safe to live in. The article identifies one of the proposed changes and which is rejected by the police leaders as the plan to introduce direct electorate election of the Police Commissioners. The police leaders are further quoted as arguing: "…the public is unaware of the turmoil that will be unleashed by these proposals"9, adding that an inherent danger exists in introducing a police system in which officers managing local police services have agendas that have underlying political connotations, not to mention the possibility of the same positions being held by individuals with extremist views.

'Police Reforms to Cut Economic Crime Departments, Eliminate Tax Crime Departments' [10] 

This article highlights the planned changes in the Russian police force which are essentially geared towards reduction of number of police departments dealing with economic crimes and scraping the tax crimes police department altogether. This would come with a cut down of between 20 and 25 per cent of the officers deployed in the two departments mentioned and which would be conducted through professional evaluations.10

The article says that the move comes in the wake of an increasing number of allegations of overlap of the functions of the two departments as well as persistent calls for their restructured. The article notes the signing of five laws by the Russian president which aim at introducing reforms in the country's police force. It also quotes the president as reiterating the significance of the five laws in ensuring continuous and sustained reforms, preventing corruption by police officers, as well as prevention of violations of citizens' rights by the officers. The article reports the president's suggestion of giving greater social benefits to police officials and increasing their salaries, and called for legislation of a separate law for this goal. In the view of the president, such moves would play to motivate the police as well as maintain their discipline and ultimately help avoid undesired cases of grave misconduct by police officers, such as the rampant shooting of civilians in a supermarket in April 2009 by a police officer.

'Police Reforms in Kenya on Course' [11] 

This article highlights some measures taken by the Kenyan authorities in introducing reforms in the ill-reputed police force of the country. One such measure is an increase of the recruits training period from nine months to an intensive 15 months at the country's police college. The article quotes a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) as saying that the training curriculum would be reviewed in order to be in line with training standards recognized internationally. The SACP said the curriculum will also be reviewed to enable officers who undergo the trainings to be more suitable in serving the public diligently and responsibly so as to meet the international set standards of policing. The article reports an on-going customer satisfaction survey conducted by the officers obligated to spear-head the planned reforms in order to ascertain the perspectives of the public on police performance as well as collecting suggestions on reforms from the public.

The article also acknowledges the efforts made by the Kenyan government in implementing some of the recommendations made in a report by Justice Philip Ransley who chaired a task force that had was formed shortly after the end of the infamous post-election violence (that rocked the country following the hotly disputed 2007 general elections) to inquire and recommend transformations needed in the country's law enforcement forces.11 The report says that the country needs a total overhaul of its law enforcement agencies in order to give the force (which is ill-reputed as one of the most corrupt in the world) a new face. The government initiated a programme to introduce and implement successfully the desired changes, though the authorities had to do so following immense pressure from the international community. The changes had to start right at the helm of the force, which saw the Police Commissioner (who had been accused widely by human rights organizations for heavy-handedness in running the force) leave office.


An analysis of some recent postings in popular media show a generally fair reporting on the strategic policing issues discussed in details in this paper. There appears to be insignificant bias, if any, towards the representation of the strategic issues in policing, although some issues tend to enjoy more coverage than others, such as cases of police brutality and desired reforms in the police forces around the world. However, in times of serious conflicts, the police are often than not put under severe criticism by especially the media, for almost any step they take. The media tends to criticize the police for using too much force if the police take tough actions against law breakers, and when the police take a humane approach in dealing the same people, the media most likely will condemn the police for not protecting law abiding citizens. The police thus find themselves in a 'catch 22' situation in most times.

A flourishing relationship between the media and the police can greatly improve the perception of the public towards the police since the media is absolutely powerful in shaping the public opinion on just any matter.1 Police bosses should thus seek to develop a healthy relationship with the media.