Representation Of How Strategic Policing Issues Are Represented Criminology Essay

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Research on the representation of how strategic policing issues are represented in the media is limited because it lacks the explanation on how popular media involve human agency, different technologies, and social organization in the championing for reforms in the criminal justice system. 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 [1] . 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 reform.

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 is pertinently influenced by the way they are portrayed in the mass media. Previous research has indicated that most of the knowledge about crime and justice is acquired from the media by the public [2] . Hence, it is of great importance to investigate the impact that mass media has on societal attitudes towards issues of police accountability and reforms. The main purpose of this paper is to look at how the media manipulates society's perceptions of police accountability and effectiveness in terms of reforms and to investigate whether popular media has shaped modern strategic policing practices especially with regard to punitive justice.

Police Accountability, through the eyes of the media

In recent years, police accountability has been a contentious issue, debated by both scholars and media commentators. In general, police accountability can be defined as the institutional measures taken to ensure that the police are carrying out their duties responsibly. There is considerable difference with regard to the appropriate institution to which should be accountable to. 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 [3] . 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 [4] .

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.

Other scholars in their research argue that, public perceptions toward police in developed countries are generally positive. However, studies on media influences on public ratings of police accountability are few. Most of the literature concentrates on how policing officers are portrayed by the media and findings have not been consistent. On one side, some researchers posit that the policing issues are favorably represented in the media. On the other side, other researchers suggest that policing issues are negatively represented in the media [5] .

The media presents police in over-dramatized and fictional TV dramas; the news media portrays the police as heroes and professional crime fighters [6] . In most of the TV dramas and documentaries, the majority of crimes are solved and suspects are effectively seized [7] . In the same way, 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.

Therefore, 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 (Ericson, Baranek, and Chan, 1987).

However, other studies have indicated that the policing issues are not generally presented positively in the news media. Surette (1998) argues that, in as much as documentaries and dramas and other news tabloid shows portray policing actions as heroic in the fight against evil, print media (Newspapers) and broadcast news characterize the police as lacking accountability and incompetent. Similarly, Graber (1980) asserts that the society in evaluates police performance more positively as compared to other parts of the criminal justice system-courts and correction facilities. However, it is indicated that the popular media does not have enough information that is required to judge the police; news media only concentrates on unconstructive criticism rather than successful crime prevention efforts such as community and strategic policing activities. In reality, most of the crimes committed are punished even when committed by the police themselves, but policemen are rarely given the heroic acknowledgement [8] .

This paper 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. The media has been on the forefront to champion police accountability. The report of the "Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC)" that investigated 99 cases of Aboriginals who died in police custody between January 1980 and May 1989 attracted passionate media coverage. Sydney's tabloid daily headlined "Oppression laid bare", while the Daily Mirror Telegraph wrote 'The Royal Commission has laid bare the harshness and oppression experienced by Australia's most disadvantaged group,". It is a result of such experiences the role and accountability of the police has been largely represented in the popular media [9] .

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

Wilson (1996) [10] argue that 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.

Police effectiveness through reforms

Current policing strategies are largely influenced by the unique economic and social environment that is always changing. Police services in Australia and the rest of the world are being asked to handle an increasing number of complex and conflicting issues. As opposed to a few decades ago, police organisations are now not merely tied to their conventional role of crime detection and enforcement of law and order. Modern police are being gradually transformed into problem solvers, social service practitioners and knowledge brokers among other new responsibilities [11] . This paper does not It is not aim to list the reasons behind this new complexity in strategic policing, but some of the major cause include internationalization of criminal activity and the increasing demand for better services and community consultation.

Most audiences do not really understand the justice process hence they are unlikely to understand the motivations and roots of social deviance and criminal behavior. In general, the criminal justice system is presented in the media largely as ineffective, save for a few "heroes" that provide justice [12] In the popular media, direct experience may influence societal attitudes toward problems of crime and police action in neighborhoods.

This type of knowledge is critical essential in the understanding of what makes some police services more or less successful than others, regardless of the measure of success used. Police commissioners play a significant role in the drafting of goals and objectives that guide their juniors' conduct and practices in the eyes of the State and civil society. Political leaders and the media habitually attribute the successes and failures of police reforms to the effectiveness of police commissioners as well as their skills and vision. The leadership of commissioners strongly influences on the structure of the police services and how they interact with the environment in which they operate.

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 in matters of public interest. This 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 [13] . 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.


In conclusion, it is hypothesized that most of the public's knowledge on crime and social justice is largely influenced through media consumption. Popular media plays a significant role in representing issues of strategic policing since it is through these that the public are more informed about their police system. The media plays a significant role of highlighting forms of accountability and lack of it to the public; the media enlightens the public. Media practitioners do not merely focus on street crimes and violence; they actively participate in the championing of reforms, especially that of police services. Newspapers are the primary source of crime news, and findings suggest that newspapers only influence respondents. Thus, for future research, it is recommended to include other sources such as films, TV shows and/or personal experiences. When the media exposes police corruption or injustice, the stories stir a sense of urgency regarding the need for action to tackle such practices.