The media portrayal of policing is filled with both positive and negative representations of police work. As a result, a complex relationship exists between media consumption and public attitudes towards the police. The purpose of this study is to test the impact that media consumption has on attitudes toward police misconduct. The research design proposed for use in this study would be the experimental design, a two-group, posttest-only, randomized experiment.
The public impression of police use of force, as brutality, in modern day policing continues to be a sensitive issue for law enforcement agencies across the nation. Police agencies across the United States deal with accusations of misuse of force on a daily basis. Justified or not, images of police utilizing force continue to strike a nerve in the American public. However, police use of force incidents are often misconstrued by the community due to the media frenzy utilizing misrepresentation of facts and propaganda techniques. These techniques undermine the authority of the police and diminish the trust that the community has in its police force. Therefore, because of these few publicized police use of force incidents, the public’s perception of police use of force incidents continues to be seen as negative and brutal. There are several different media forms, and each type might portray the police in different manners. As a result, this research will utilize different media consumption including different types of news reports, to include the internet, different newspaper articles and television newscasts. If the media, defined as the independent variable, would ethically report the true nature of events to the public, defined as the dependent variable, then the public’s perception of police use of force would not be negative and bias.
Background and Literature Review
Numerous incidents of police use of force can be found everyday in law enforcement agencies throughout the country. USA Today alleges police brutality is up since September 11th. However, the article also points out that the number of cases is small compared to the 800,000 sworn police officers patrolling within the United States of America. This article demonstrates how the media is instrumental in misleading the public in regards to police misconduct (Johnson, 2007). Coa & Huang (2000) researched the citizen complaint rate of police misconduct and identifies the reasons citizens complain. They determined that certain socio-economic groups view use of force as brutality even when it is justified and necessary. Along these same lines, Dowler & Zawilski (2007) summarized field work, researched and gathered data on the media’s portrayal of policing and how it impacts the public perception. Their research describes how the media can have a direct negative influence on the public’s perception on the issue of police use of force.
There are documented cases where the media has distorted incidents of police use of force when the force was justified as a result of the individual’s attitude and actions towards police. Engel conducted a study that explains the tendency of a suspect to resist the officers independent of the police officer’s behavior. The study explained that the suspects’ resistance and disrespect toward police, regardless of social and economic standing, coupled with the suspects’ violent actions towards the officers illicit a use of force response from the officers. The study examines the thought that some citizens have a propensity towards aggression towards the police (2003). When these incidents are caught on tape the media is notorious for airing only the officer’s response and not the order of events that prompted the use of force.
Police agencies continue to examine less than lethal use of force options in an effort to reduce the injuries to officers and suspects. The agencies continually educate their officers on the use...
References: Alpert, G. (1999). Police use of force data: Where are we and where should we be going. Police Quarterly, 2, 57-58.
Bachman, R. & Schutt, R. (2007). The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Thousand Oaks, California. Sage Publications.
Cao, L & Huang, B. (2000). Determinants of citizen complaints against police abuse of power. Journal of Criminal Justice, 28, 203-213.
Dowler, K. & Zawilski, V. (2007). Public perceptions of police misconduct and discrimination: Examining the impact of media consumption. Journal of Criminal Justice, 35, 193-203.
Engel, R. (2003). Explaining suspects’ resistance and disrespect toward police. Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, 475-492.
Johnson, Kevin. (December 18, 2007). USA Today. In USA Today News. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from http://www.usatoday.com.
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