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Public Perceptions of Police Misconduct and Discrimination

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1429 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the journal, Public Perceptions of Police Misconduct and Discrimination: Examining the Impact of Media Consumption, by Kenneth Dowler and Valerie Zawilski, they go to find a link on certain variables. The authors make it clear in their abstract and introduction about how popular media is fundamentally important in the construction of the attitudes developed toward criminal justice and criminal justice agents. The majority of public knowledge about crime and justice is derived from media consumption (Ericson, Baranek, & Chan, 1987; Graber, 1980; Roberts & Doob, 1990; Surette, 2007). Many studies have been conducted to examine attitudes toward the police, but very few focused on the media impact on those attitudes as well as the media’s influence on the public’s attitudes toward police misconduct and discrimination. The study conducted seeks to find the relationship between media coverage and the impact it has on the public’s perception of the police. The abstract is specific giving a quick overview of what the journal is about and their research that will be presented making the abstract representative of the article.

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Literature Review

Literature on media depiction of police found there to be two conflicting observations. Some of the research discovered that police were presented favorably and others found that the police were negatively represented. Different researchers have hypothesized that news media has engaged themselves in negative appearance of policing. Surette (2007), provides an example of print and broadcast media characterizing the police as ineffective and incompetent, while reality police shows and news tabloid programs presented the police as heroes who fight evil. Surrette (2007), also found nine police narratives on police images, including rogue cops, corrupt cops, honest cops, buddy cops, comedy cops, action comedy cops, female cops, and aging cops. Other researchers speculate public attitudes toward police are influenced by their exposure to media. In one study, watching police reality shows and television news increased the level of confidence in police. Racial ethnicities become a factor with the public when the media has an affect on the police image. White viewers tend to view the police with positive attitudes when watching a reality show and no relationship was found with African American viewers. When viewing the news an increase in confidence toward the police was concurrent in both African Americans and Whites. Also what was found is the media has a limited impact on the attitudes toward the police. The amount of television viewers that has previous police contact were found to have a negative attitude toward the police.

Another aspect is police misconduct that researchers have looked into. In the studies researchers have found, that news coverage of brutality incidents or police corruption increased negative attitudes toward the police (Kaminski & Jefferis, 1998; Sigleman,Welch, Bledsoe, & Combs, 1997; Tuch & Weitzer, 1997; Weitzer, 2002). Weitzer and Tuch (2004), examined the impact that frequent exposure of separate incidents of police misconduct had on citizen attitudes toward the police. They found that repeated media exposure to police abuse increased the public’s beliefs in the frequency of police misconduct. This was true for Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics, but minorities were more strongly affected. Another study administered by the two found that exposure to media accounts of police misconduct increased perception of police bias against minorities.

The literatures used in the journal are all relevant and deal with the public and the police image. Sources used each have different research conducted showing both sides to the biases on the topic.

Discussion of Methodology and Findings

The research study was designed and conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis, and the Roper Center for Opinion Research that provided the data. A survey was used to explore American attitudes toward crime and justice. The survey also included a comprehensive assessment of public media consumption.

Measurements in the study were broken up into two groups of media, which are crime shows and news consumption. Independent variables used for the crime shows consisted of three questions. The news part was similar format to the crime shows measurements, but participants were asked about network newscasts. Dependent variables focused on attitudes towards police. There were two distinct areas, which included police misconduct and discriminatory police practices. Attitudes toward police misconduct were measured with three questions and discriminatory police practices were measured with two questions.

Kenneth Dowler and Valerie Zawilski’s (2007) results found that frequent viewers of network news and crime solving shows were more likely to report that police misconduct was a common or frequent occurrence. The findings also revealed that race and experience within criminal justice system were significant predictors of attitudes toward police misconduct. White respondents were more likely to report that police misconduct was rare, whereas respondents that had been charged or arrested believed that police misconduct was common. In addition, male respondents, higher educated respondents, and respondents concerned about property crime were more likely to perceive lower levels of police misconduct. Conversely, respondents who reported that there were serious crime problems within their neighborhood were more likely to believe that police misconduct was plentiful. There were significant relationships between race, gender, education, charged/arrested, and preferential treatment of Whites by the police. Multivariate findings revealed that frequent viewers of police drama shows were more likely to believe that police treated the wealthy better, while frequent viewers of crime solving shows believed that there was no preferential treatment given to the wealthy. Other significant relationships included education, charged/arrested, and perception of crime in the country. Overall, the results suggested that the media had little impact on attitudes toward police misconduct and discrimination.

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Sufficient evidence toward the research conducted is present throughout the journal. The authors use many different other studies conducted to add to the validity of their research. A majority of research implies the police are a favorable by the public. Another factor in the perception of police are, television news exaggerating the proportion of arrests, which portrayed the police as more effective than official statistics exhibited (Marsh, 1991; Roshier, 1973; Sacco & Fair, 1988; Skogan & Maxfield, 1981).

More up to date research propose that views of policing formed an idealistic public prospect about true policing which then could possibly lead to disappointment when police duties did not meet their media portrayals.


All important terms have been clearly defined in the journal. Explanations of other research in the journal allow for further in depth explanation of their own study. The author’s explain their methodology clearly going through all the variables and ended with the results as well as a discussion recapping the journal. I am left reading the article feeling slightly more knowledgeable about the topic. The author’s not only teach about their hypothesis, but also include other researcher’s adding to make the text richer. All the data was consistent and no errors of facts were found. The media does have a role in making people believe what they want them to perceive in views, such as policing conduct. This is one factor that got my attention in the article. People should not get biases from the news or T.V shows, they should experience it first hand before going to conclusions. The public wants to be ale to conform with other’s that have the same views, which could possibly be from watching shows.


The article can relate to our class because we have discusses and talked about media and crime and other topics. In chat that we have online we were instructed to watch a thirty minute show and talk about how we felt and to explain it. Another chat was about drugs and the media, also what our first impressions are from watching the media, which can lead us to create our own biases.


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