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Policing and the Media (From Handbook of Policing, P 259-281, 2003, Tim Newburn, ed. -- See NCJ-203671)

NCJ Number
Robert Reiner
Date Published
23 pages
This chapter traces the patterns of interaction of the police and the media in Great Britain before and after World War II, with attention to the media's portrayal of the police.
In 18th and early 19th-century Britain, there was widespread and intense hostility to the police, as reflected in the protracted resistance to the creation of the new police. The campaign to establish a modern police force only succeeded after 1829 and Peel's Metropolitan Police Act, which created a model that eventually spread throughout the entire county after the enactment of the County and Borough Police Act of 1856. During the first half of the 19th century, the widespread rejection of the police was gradually overcome as Peel and other police leaders presented and marketed the police so as to appeal to the public. This involved portraying the police as both paragons of virtue and panaceas for countering crime and disorder. Public perceptions of the police were played out in the media of the day, the press, the novel, and the music hall. The advent of the cinema as the primary medium of mass entertainment early in the 20th century included portrayals of crime and law enforcement's response to it. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the police achieved great public popularity through the media, which included television. In the late 1960's, the popular legitimacy of policing declined under cultural and social changes reflected in the widespread challenging of authority and deteriorating economic fortunes. The media began to spotlight police scandals and corruption, racism, sexism, and a militarization of police tactics. Still, the rise of crime and the public's realization that the police constituted the primary bulwark against crime and disorder caused the media to meet the public's need to believe that the police themselves would address their corrupt elements and forge a dependable and effective force against crime and public corruption. Thus, contemporary media stories of police may portray them as morally flawed but also courageous and determined to counter crime and evil both within their own ranks and in society. 3 notes and 129 references


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