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Neighborhood Watch or Home Watch is internationally regarded as the largest voluntary crime prevention activity in the world. It is typically citizen instigated and police facilitated, with local groups having substantial autonomy in the organization and leadership, some with access to support and materials from overarching national organizations, contingent upon adherence to basic common standards. The local group presents itself as a partnership of people coming together to try to make their community safer, and it is primarily seen as a scheme coordinated between local citizens and their police. The relative autonomy of local groups is reflected in a variety of working collaborations with local or municipal authorities, voluntary agencies, and private business. Neighborhood Watch aims to empower people to protect themselves and their properties and to reduce the fear of crime by means of improved home security, greater vigilance, increased guardianship, and reporting of incidents to the police, and by fostering a community spirit. A further aim of the organization is to improve police and community liaison by developing effective two-way communication processes by which Neighborhood Watch leaders can disseminate up-to-date information among the members. Examples of Neighborhood Watches are now to be found in many parts of the world, and while initially schemes were launched exclusively by the police, as time and the organization have progressed, active citizens are now often initiating the establishment and organization of their own schemes. The closer linkage between police and the Neighborhood Watch organizations is reflected in the fact that the United Kingdom’s Neighborhood Watch national headquarters is located within an operational police station.
Jason Gravel and George E. Tita
Though often not mentioned by name, the importance of social networks in explaining criminal behavior, delinquency, and patterns has long been recognized in the study of crime. Theories that explain criminal behavior at the individual level being learned through the impacts of peer influences presume that the transmission of ideas and influences flow among social ties (networks) that link individuals. Cultural theories of crime work in the same way. At the community level, delinquency and criminal behavior are born among members of a community or group that adhere to a particular cultural set of norms or beliefs. The concentration of crime in particular geographic areas results when there are insufficient ties among local residents to affect informal social control in the area. Impacted neighborhoods are often described as socially isolated, lacking social ties to institutions of power that provide the investment and services needed in a healthy community. The history of the formation and activities of street gangs is a clear example of how understanding the ties among individuals, and between groups of these individuals, matter in our understanding these phenomena. Comprehending social ties among gangs and gang members and employment of social network analysis (SNA) have become mainstays of local law enforcement efforts to address the issue of gang violence.
Much of the early criminological work that implicated social networks but did not explicitly acknowledge a network by name, or did not employ SNA on formal network data, did so because collecting such data is difficult at best and sometimes impossible. Though criminology has been a “late adopter” of SNA, the field is making great strides in this area. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) research program has provided a rich set of network data to explore issues of peer influence. Researchers are using carefully collected social network data at the individual and organizational level to better understand the ability of communities to self-regulate delinquency and crime in an area. Arrest data and field identification stops are being used to generate large networks in an effort to understand how one’s position in a larger social structure might be related to an actor’s involvement in future offending or victimization.
As the field of criminology continues to adopt a network perspective in the study of crime, it is important to understand the development of social networks within the field. Critically examining the strengths and weaknesses of network data, especially in terms of the process by which data are generated, can lead to better applications of network analysis in the future.
Joachim Savelsberg and Wahutu Siguru
Today, genocides and other episodes of mass violence are, under specific circumstances, subject to extensive media reporting. A case in point is the mass violence in Darfur, unfolding during the first decades of the 21st century and categorized as genocide by many, including the International Criminal Court. Media reporting about Darfur shows noteworthy patterns. They are revealed by a study supported by the National Science Foundation, involving content analysis of 3,387 reports and opinion pieces published in prominent newspapers of eight countries in the Global North, accompanied by expert interviews, and a doctoral dissertation on the journalistic field in Africa and its reporting on Darfur. First, today’s media reporting replaces denial with acknowledgment. Second, it frames the violence most often as criminal, and frequently as genocidal, even though humanitarian emergency and armed conflict frames also fare prominently. Third, throughout the history of reporting, Africa correspondents, central actors in the journalistic field, adapt to opportunities and external pressures from surrounding social fields. Economic forces (media markets) and politics affect the frequency of reporting. The criminal justice-oriented human rights field, the humanitarian field, and the diplomatic field influence the frames through which the violence is interpreted. Fourth, the criminal justice-oriented human rights field is especially effective in coloring reports, despite substantial barriers between criminal courts and the journalistic field. Fifth, reporting in all countries is affected by interventions by international institutions, including the UN Security Council, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC’s decision to charge Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, for example, intensified reporting in all countries. Sixth, the receptivity to the criminal justice frame varies by country. Seventh, in addition to cross-country similarities and differences within the Global North, a comparison of journalistic fields in the Global North with those in Africa shows distinct patterns, but also astonishing similarities between Global North and African reporting on Darfur.
Annette Hill and Susan Turnbull
Nordic noir is an emerging crime genre that draws on crime fiction, feature film, and television drama. The term Nordic noir is associated with a region (Scandinavia), with a mood (gloomy and bleak), with a look (dark and grim), and with strong characters and a compelling narrative. Such is the popularity of Nordic noir as a brand for crime that it can also, and somewhat confusingly, be associated with disparate, bleak dramas set in particular locations outside the Scandinavian region (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland), such as Wales, Italy, France, Mexico, and the United States. As such, Nordic noir is a global brand that attracts transnational audiences, and at the same time, it is a genre that offers a specific style of storytelling that has the look and feel of a regional, moody, and compelling crime narrative.
The approach to Nordic noir taken in this article analyzes the genre as multidimensional, involving production and institutional contexts, creative practices, and the practices of audiences and fans. The research uses empirical and theoretical analysis drawing on genre analysis, as well as production and audience studies, including qualitative interviews and participant observations with executive and creative producers, viewers, and fans. Nordic noir is not a fixed genre; rather, it is in a constant process of iteration as it mutates, hybridizes and migrates from one location to another, where it may be received and understood in different ways. The concept of “genre work” is useful in helping to capture and critically analyze Nordic noir from multiple perspectives, taking into account the complex ways in which this genre is a cocreation between industries and audiences. This is particularly evident in the case of the Danish-Swedish coproduction Broen/Bron/The Bridge (2011), which provides an illuminating case study of these processes at work. It is this constantly ongoing notion of genre work that illuminates the fluidity of Nordic noir, where its meaning and symbolic power is cocreated by institutions, producers, and audiences.
In Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, public order laws criminalize the use of swearing, offensive, or abusive language in a public place. Police officers use these laws as tools to assert “their authority” or command respect in public spaces where that authority is perceived to be challenged via the use of profanities such as “fuck.” Alongside the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, representations of swearing in the media influence ideas about whether swear words warrant criminal punishment. A particular “common-sense” assumption about language (language ideology) prevalent in media representations of offensive language crimes, echoed by politicians and police representatives, is that disrespecting or challenging police authority via “four-letter words” warrants criminal sanction.
However, popular culture can counter dominant ideologies with respect to offensive language, police, and authority. This article examines how the use of swear words in N.W.A’s popular rap song “Fuck tha Police” (1988) and in the HBO television series The Wire (Simon & Burns, 2002–2008) can inform and challenge legal assessments of community standards with regards to offensive language.
The development of the Internet and related communication technologies has had a transformative effect upon social, political, economic, and cultural life. It has also facilitated the emergence of a wide range of crimes that take shape in the spaces of virtual communication. These offenses include technology-oriented crimes such as hacking and the distribution of malicious software; property-oriented crimes such as media piracy, theft, and fraud; and interpersonal offenses such as stalking, harassment, and sexual abuse. In many instances, these crimes serve to entrench and exacerbate existing patterns of victimization, vulnerability, and inequality, along lines of difference related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and income. The anonymized and globally distributed nature of the Internet creates huge challenges for crime prevention, detection, and prosecution of online offenses.
Each year, millions of individuals worldwide find themselves victims of online fraud. Whether it is responding to a fraudulent email with bank account details or being defrauded through a false relationship, fraud can have a life-changing impact on an individual victim. For many victims, this goes beyond pure monetary losses and impacts their physical and emotional health and well-being. Historically, fraud has not been the priority of police or government agencies; however, increased developments in technology mean that fraud is affecting a greater number of victims than ever before. The online nature of many fraudulent approaches carries with it a new set of unique challenges associated with the policing and prevention of online fraud, and victim support services are currently not well equipped (if even in existence) to deal with the aftermath of victimization.
Organized sexual abuse refers to the coordinated sexual abuse of multiple children by multiple perpetrators. It has proved to be a particularly controversial form of sexual abuse. Initial reports of organized abuse in the 1980s were met with shock and disbelief, followed by a significant backlash as journalists and academics claimed that organized abuse allegations were the product of “moral panic” and “false memories.” In the mass media, investigations into organized abuse were presented throughout the 1990s as evidence that public anxiety about child sexual abuse had generated a “witch-hunt” in which even the most outrageous allegation of abuse was considered credible. While this argument was advanced by journalists and academics, it developed first in the mass media, where the culture of news production promoted a particularly skeptical view of sexual abuse allegations. Claims of a sexual abuse witch-hunt were embedded within a broader backlash against feminism and child protection that called into question the prevalence and severity of sexual violence. Journalists and editors took a particularly activist role in the social construction of organized abuse as synonymous with false and exaggerated allegations.
A number of recent developments have fragmented an apparent journalistic consensus over the incredibility of organized abuse claims. The mass media has played a key role in publicizing the problem of clergy abuse, focusing in particular on institutionalized cultures of silence and disbelief. Sexual abuse by celebrities and authority figures has also received global media coverage and emphasized the failure of authorities to act on reports or suspicion of sexual abuse. Such media stories directly contest prior claims by journalists that society and major institutions are overly reactive to sexual abuse disclosures. Instead, the contemporary mass media includes expanded opportunities for recognition and reporting on the diversity of sexual abuse including organized abuse. The emergence of social media has also generated new possibilities for reporting, information dissemination, and debate on organized abuse. Accordingly, public discussion of organized abuse has taken on polyvocal and increasingly agonistic qualities, as older tropes about “false memories” and “moral panics” are contradicted by factual reporting on organized abuse investigations and convictions. The capacity of victims, survivors, and others impacted by organized abuse to speak for themselves on social media, rather than through the mediation of a journalist, is a key development that introduces a new dynamic of accountability and transparency that had previously been absent in media coverage of this challenging issue.
Patricia (Paddy) Rawlinson
Organized crime is one of the most popular topics of media attention within the crime genre, providing a plethora of fictional representations and factual explanations for popular consumption. Its media presence has not only entertained the public but also interacted with and help form policy responses by governments and law enforcement agencies. Beset by ambiguous definitions and typically operating in a clandestine manner, organized crime has become subject to various forms of mythologizing, romanticized and exaggerated, thrilling and terrifying, emerging as a phenomenon riddled with contradictions yet made consistently attractive by the mystique that dominates media narratives. Blurring the line between fact and fiction as these narratives often do, they can serve or undermine attempts to conceptualize and control organized crime, and in some cases, modify the behavior of criminals themselves.
The mythologizing of organized crime has been one of the major challenges for criminologists researching the topic. Unlike many other forms of crime, gaining access to subjects involved in this surreptitious world is especially difficult for academics, consequently conferring exaggerated and misleading media and official representations of organized crime greater currency. Further, with the ostensible explosion of global crime networks, shaped by diverse languages, cultures, and ideologies, gaining a more accurate understanding of the nature of and threat posed by organized crime has become even more problematic. In examining the production and content of the dominant myths around organized crime, the article looks at the impact of media and official representations of these mythologies and how they have helped to preserve the political, social, and economic status quo.
Breanna Boppre, Emily J. Salisbury, and Jaclyn Parker
Scholarship in criminology has focused on individuals’ pathways to crime—how life experiences, often beginning during childhood, lead to criminality in adolescence or adulthood. General frameworks for this research include life-course, developmental, and biosocial criminology. However, because the vast majority of the general pathways research literature was developed using samples of boys and men, scholars with a feminist theoretical background argue that such research is not truly representative of girls and women’s pathways to crime. While general theories of crime have been applied broadly, gender-specific pathways to crime account for important distinctions between male and female experiences.
Thus, gender (and sex), through biological differences, social norms, and expectations, shapes individual life experiences that result in distinct pathways to crime for men and women. Consequently, understanding criminality requires a full consideration of gendered experiences. Even though similar life events may occur with both men and women, individual responses and effects can vary greatly and lead to different pathways to criminal behavior. Accordingly, this article discusses pathways to crime though a gendered lens. First, men’s pathways to crime are presented, which have been traditionally represented through general criminological research. Next, women’s specific pathways to crime are discussed, developed primarily through the gendered pathways literature. Finally, future directions in pathways research are outlined.
The genealogy of pecuniary punishments is a story of constant reformulation in response to shifting political pressures, changes in institutional and administrative arrangements, and intellectual developments that changed ideological commitments of legislators and practitioners. Within this chronicle of reformulation, broad transformations since the late 17th century are discernible. These legal transformations, most of which have been widely discussed and debated, help delimitate old and new forms of punishment and, to some degree, different modes of constructing punishment inside the criminal law. Based on the notion that the legal discussions during the 19th century set the stage for the profound reforms initiated by the emergence of consumer societies, the discourses that unfolded from around the end of early modern times until now are analyzed, even though few could have predicted the increase in the use of fines and confiscation that would occur throughout the 20th century. For the fine to reach such a state of ubiquity, one of its most criticized characteristics derived from its monetary nature had to undergo a severe scrutiny: the unequal impact on offenders caused by the unequal distribution of money between individuals in society. Confiscation, on the other hand, after having being extensively used by the Nazi, fascist, and Francoist regimes against “people’s enemies” and political opponents, was rediscovered as one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against organized crime during the war on drugs in the 1980s. In the 21st century it has become increasingly important for countries to be able to freeze and confiscate property related to the committing of an offense, thus depriving criminals of their illicitly obtained assets.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Please check back later for the full article.
Numerous philosophical theories purport to justify a system of legal punishment. It is doubtful, however, that any of them successfully answer these three questions: Why punish? Who is to be punished? How much punishment is applied? Justifying punishment by appealing to consequences such as deterrence and incapacitation leads to difficulties with whom to punish and how much. Arguably, punishing an innocent person who is believed to be guilty could deter potential offenders, and a serious offense might be deterred with less punishment than a minor offense. Simple retributive theories that would justify punishment by appealing to the guilt of the offender don’t adequately answer the question of why the offender should be harmed in return for harm done. More-sophisticated retributive theories construe punishment as equalizing an unfair advantage taken by an offender. Such theories have difficulty with the question of how much to punish. Some philosophers see insurmountable problems either for strictly forward-looking theories that appeal to future consequences, or for strictly backward-looking theories that appeal to past guilt of an offender. The solution, then, could be a theory that is both forward looking and backward looking. The theory could appeal to future results—to provide a reason for punishing, but to look back at harm done by the offender to answer the question of whom to punish and how much. However, without a unifying rationale for taking these different approaches to these particular issues, such a theory would be ad hoc if not incoherent.
In recent decades, philosophers have offered several approaches that might avoid the pitfalls described. Censure theorists attempt to justify punishment as the state’s means of expressing disapproval of offenses against the law. Consent theorists hold that, in breaking the law, offenders voluntarily make themselves liable for punishment. Self-defense theorists argue that it is rational and justifiable for the state to threaten punishment in order to defend citizens against offenses. They then move by various strategies from the justifiability of the threat to the justifiability of punishment. Each of these theories faces difficulties, but proponents might judge that, even though they haven’t succeeded in stating the justification of punishment, their theory is on the right track. Others view the difficulties faced by all theories and boldly conclude that punishment is not justifiable; that we should adopt an alternative such as rehabilitation or restitution. Justifying either of these alternatives, however, is at least as problematic as justifying punishment. The situation is made even more troublesome by the fact that the theories surveyed aim to justify punishment in societies that have a just political structure and just laws. Even if such a theory succeeds, it is far from clear that it would justify punishment in a society where many of those who are harmed by punishment have also been victims of injustice.
Nick Malleson, Alison Heppenstall, and Andrew Crooks
Since the earliest geographical explorations of criminal phenomena, scientists have come to the realization that crime occurrences can often be best explained by analysis at local scales. For example, the works of Guerry and Quetelet—which are often credited as being the first spatial studies of crime—analyzed data that had been aggregated to regions approximately similar to US states. The next major seminal work on spatial crime patterns was from the Chicago School in the 20th century and increased the spatial resolution of analysis to the census tract (an American administrative area that is designed to contain approximately 4,000 individual inhabitants). With the availability of higher-quality spatial data, as well as improvements in the computing infrastructure (particularly with respect to spatial analysis and mapping), more recent empirical spatial criminology work can operate at even higher resolutions; the “crime at places” literature regularly highlights the importance of analyzing crime at the street segment or at even finer scales. These empirical realizations—that crime patterns vary substantially at micro places—are well grounded in the core environmental criminology theories of routine activity theory, the geometric theory of crime, and the rational choice perspective. Each theory focuses on the individual-level nature of crime, the behavior and motivations of individual people, and the importance of the immediate surroundings. For example, routine activities theory stipulates that a crime is possible when an offender and a potential victim meet at the same time and place in the absence of a capable guardian. The geometric theory of crime suggests that individuals build up an awareness of their surroundings as they undertake their routine activities, and it is where these areas overlap with crime opportunities that crimes are most likely to occur. Finally, the rational choice perspective suggests that the decision to commit a crime is partially a cost-benefit analysis of the risks and rewards. To properly understand or model these three decisions it is important to capture the motivations, awareness, rationality, immediate surroundings, etc., of the individual and include a highly disaggregate representation of space (i.e. “micro-places”). Unfortunately one of the most common methods for modeling crime, regression, is somewhat poorly suited capturing these dynamics. As with most traditional modeling approaches, regression models represent the underlying system through mathematical aggregations. The resulting models are therefore well suited to systems that behave in a linear fashion (e.g., where a change in model input leads to a predictable change in the model output) and where low-level heterogeneity is not important (i.e., we can assume that everyone in a particular group of people will behave in the same way). However, as alluded to earlier, the crime system does not necessarily meet these assumptions. To really understand the dynamics of crime patterns, and to be able to properly represent the underlying theories, it is necessary to represent the behavior of the individual system components (i.e. people) directly. For this reason, many scientists from a variety of different disciplines are turning to individual-level modeling techniques such as agent-based modeling.
John E. Eck
Place management theory—a part of routine activity theory—explains why a relatively few places have a great deal of crime while most places have little or no crime. The explanation is the way place managers carry out their four primary functions: organization of space, regulation of conduct, control of access, and acquisition of resources.
Place managers are those people and organizations that own and operate businesses, homes, hotels, drinking establishments, schools, government offices, places of worship, health centers, and other specific locations. They can even operate mobile places such as busses, trains, ships, and aircraft. Some are large—a multi-story office tower for example—while others are tiny—a bus stop, for example. Place managers are important because they can exercise control over the people who use these locations and in doing so contribute to public order and safety. Consequently, it is important to understand place management, how it can fail, and what one can do to prevent failures.
Place management has implications beyond high-crime sites. When crime places are connected, they can create crime hot spots in an area. The concentration of high crime places can inflate crime in a neighborhood. Moreover, place management can be applied to virtual locations, such as servers, websites, and other network infrastructures.
There is considerable evaluation evidence that place managers can change high crime locations to low crime locations. Research also shows that displacement to other places, though possible, is far from inevitable. Indeed, research shows that improving a high crime place can reduce crime at places nearby places. Although much of this research has studied how police intervene with place managers, non-police regulatory agencies can carry out this public safety function.
Police and the media have had a close relationship but it has become an increasingly uneasy one. For more than a century, the mainstream United States media—mainly newspapers, radio, television and magazines—have depended on the police for raw material for a steady diet of crime stories. For its part, law enforcement regards the media as something of an adversary. The relationship has changed because of the growth of investigative reporting and of the Internet. Both developments have increased the volume of material critical of the police. At the same time, law enforcement has used social media as a means to bypass the mainstream media to try getting its message directly to the public. However, the news media in all of its forms remains a powerful interpreter of how law enforcement does its job.
Since the end of the Second World War, police cooperation has experienced several transformations affecting the conduct of law enforcement operations across jurisdictions. These critical changes emerged from global legal, political and socioeconomic trends that constantly redefining the nature, structure and the role of actors involved in policing cooperation. For instance, the creation of vast free trade zones in North America, Europe and Asia has provided an important momentum for collaboration and coordination among national justice systems and the protection of the sovereignty of states. Moreover, the evolution of transnational criminal networks and the internationalization of terrorist activities have directly contributed to the multiplication of law enforcement and intelligence initiatives that transcends local and national jurisdictions. The so-called wars on crime, drug and terrorism ranging from 1960’s to 2010’s have generated the deployment of a formidable web of policing activities across the globe. In the 21st Century, a complex assemblage of public and private actors conducts police cooperation activities. These actors operate at several levels of geographical jurisdictions and cooperate through different organizational structures and legal frameworks.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Please check back later for the full article.
Police corruption is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed, and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn to when seeking justice. Third, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher crime rates. Finally, and in extreme cases, low levels of citizen trust in law enforcement agencies can undermine a state’s legitimacy, with all the negative knock-on effects of this.
Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other state officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption comes in various forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans, and sometimes even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, viz. “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry syndrome,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society. Many factors drive police corruption, including inadequate salaries, frustration with the leniency of the courts, opportunity, envy (of wealthy criminals), and simple greed. Combating it is no easy task, but methods that have significantly lowered corruption rates in countries such as Singapore and Georgia include reducing discretionary decision-making, radical re-structuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police.
Since the inception of television, portrayal of crime and justice has been a central feature on television. In particular, the police are featured as prominent characters in many fictional crime programs. Some television cops, such as Joe Friday, Columbo, and Kojak transcend the genre and become enshrined within popular culture. Sometimes referred to as a police procedural, the police drama is a staple of both current and past television programming. In fact, almost 300 police dramas have aired on American network, cable, and syndicated television, with several new shows premiering each year. The vast majority of these shows are short-lived and are largely forgotten. However, some police dramas capture large viewing audiences and/or achieve critical acclaim. Sweeping changes within society have resulted in shifting portrayals of the police on television. Early portrayals focused on a law and order approach, in which the police were moral agents who represented a conservative, pro-establishment point of view. These types of shows represent the so-called “authentic” police drama. The authentic police drama features storylines and characters that engage in somewhat realistic investigative practices and depict relatively common criminal events. The classic example of an authentic police drama is Dragnet, while more recent versions would include shows such as the very popular Law and Order franchise. The 1970s represented the golden age of the police drama, with numerous shows that can be described as gimmicky, with police appearing as super-cops who could singlehandedly fight corruption and achieve justice. Moreover, demographic shifts in the field of policing led to more diversity in media depictions of police, with shows that featured female and African-American characters. In the 1980s, the portrayal of police became even more complex with the appearance of Hill Street Blues, a genre altering show that introduced serialized storylines and characters that were depicted with distinctly human characteristics, with real emotions and flaws. Moreover, the standard law and order approach was challenged, as a more liberal explanation of crime emerged with social inequality as a cause of criminal behavior. Contemporary police dramas, especially shows that appear on network television, tend to focus on a law and order approach. The emergence of cable networks has allowed the police drama to push the limits of television by depicting the police in a more realistic fashion.
Alyce McGovern and Nickie D. Phillips
The relationship between the police and the media is complex, multidimensional, and contingent. Since the development of modern-day policing, the police and the media have interacted with one another in some way, shape, or form. The relationship has often been described as symbiotic, and can be characterized as ebbing and flowing in terms of the power dynamics that exist. For the police, the media present a powerful opportunity to communicate with the public about crime threats and events, as well as police successes. For the media, crime events make up a significant portion of media content, and access to police sources assists journalists in constructing such content. But the police–media relationship is not always cosy, and at times, tensions and conflicts arise. The increasing professionalization of police media communications activities has further challenged the nature and scope of the police–media relationship. Not only has the relationship become more formalized, driven by police policies and practices that are concerned with managing the media, but it has also been challenged by the very nature of the media. Changes to the media landscape have presented police organizations with a unique opportunity to become media organizations in their own right. The proliferation of police reality television programming, together with the rise of social media, has served to broaden the ways in which the police engage with the media in the pursuit of trust, confidence, and legitimacy; however, this has also opened the police up to increasing scrutiny as citizen journalism and other forms of counterveillance challenge the preferred police image.
John M. Violanti
All too often we emphasize the dangers of police work, but seem to neglect the hidden psychological danger of this profession. Suicide is a consequence of that hidden danger. It is a clear indication of the intolerable strain placed on the police officer’s work and life roles. Policing is an occupation replete with stress and traumatic incidents. For example, witnessing death, encountering abused children, and experiencing violent street combat weigh heavily as precipitants to depression, alcohol use, and suicide among police. Ideas as far back as Freud’s aggression theory relate to the police because officers cannot legally express anger and aggression outwardly and turn it within. Following Freud, other studies examined the frustration of police work and how it was turned inward. Other theoretical ideas concerning police suicide that have emerged over the years are included in this article—police cultural socialization, strain theory, and interpersonal suicide theory.
Scientific research on police suicide has helped to focus on this topic. Much research is on suicide rates in an effort to determine the scope of this problem. Several recent studies are discussed in this article, including a national study. Such studies, however, are not without controversy and more work is necessary to clarify the validity of findings. There is lack of data available on police suicide, which adds to the problem of research. Many believe that causes of police suicide are really no different than those in other groups in society, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or significant loss. While scholars cannot yet be certain that police work is an etiological suicide risk factor, we can with some assurance state that it serves as a fertile arena for suicide precipitants. Culturally approved alcohol use and maladaptive coping, firearms availability, and exposure to psychologically adverse incidents all add to the suicide nexus.
Last, and most important, the issue of police suicide prevention is discussed. Likely the biggest challenge in prevention is convincing officers to go for help. The police and societal culture at large attach a stigma to suicide which is difficult to deal with. Additionally, the police culture does not allow for weakness of any kind, either physical or psychological. Several promising prevention approaches are discussed. Given the reluctance to report the deaths of police officers as suicides unfortunately leaves us in a position of “best guess” based on what evidence we can collect. Looking to the future, the development of a national database focused on police suicide would help to establish the actual scope of this tragic loss of life. Interventions need to more efficaciously target at-risk police officers. More research, using longitudinal study designs, is needed to inform interventions and, in particular, to determine how suicide prevention efforts can be modified to meet the unique needs of law enforcement officers.