Does the media influence your opinion of the police
KJ Mullins-Toronto: Do you hate the police? It’s a simple question that often is answered with a no and a but. How we view the police is complex. For some it could be a positive or negative personal experience. But do some people hate the police because of what they read in the media?
With several newspaper editors going with the adage ‘if it bleeds it leads’ often only one side of policing is written about in mainstream news. A bad cop story will trump a story of a cop working with local kids for front page coverage. In fact the good cop story is unlikely to ever get written. That’s not to say that newspapers don’t write articles that put police in a positive light but often it’s because of their involvement in a crime story. Putting a human face to the police in media is a rarity.
More often a person will base their opinion on what they or their friends have experienced when it comes to the police. One event that is negative can reverse several positive ones.
In the ‘old days’ the neighbourhood beat cop was known to the locals. He walked the same beat and talked with the residents. That has changed in recent years, with cops working out of squad cars and not talking to as many people on a daily basis.
Many times the only personal contact with the police come during a crisis. A person has become the victim of a crime or is a criminal. During those high stress periods emotions are on a heightened level.
Toronto’s Police Service started using social media last year in an effort to improve their image with the public. The police who are part of this team are educated on how to represent themselves and the service.
Newz4u.net asked several people from different backgrounds and age groups the following:
Do you hate the police? Does the media’s coverage of police factor into your opinion?
No one said that they hate the police but almost everyone had concerns. Those concerns mostly came from their own experiences or those of someone they know when dealing with the police. Some however did admit that the media plays a part in how they view the police.
Mychol Scully of Toronto said, “I don’t hate the police, but I do have concerns about some police officers’ abuse of their position in society. I’m less influenced by the media on this topic than I am by personal stories told to me by people I know who’ve experienced abuse of power at the hands of some police officers.”
Paul Koster of Toronto answered, “No I don’t hate the police. And I don’t pay much attention to the media coverage. I find most print media are concerned with headlines and selling newspapers first, reporting the news unbiasedly second.”
Rob Cairns of Toronto stated, “Well, no I don’t hate the police and well the traditional media is just trying to sell stories so I take a lot of what they present with a grain of salt.”
C-Cose Shepherd Daley of New Brunswick responded, “Hmmm ….. well in our neck of the woods (NB), the saying goes that as long as your near to a Timmie’s you can be assured that the police will respond to a request for them … lol. Lately, I’ve found that many of them act like mall security guards w/ guns. I think it’s partly a product of the last 10 yrs drive to fill their ranks w/ alpha males that couldn’t–or didn’t want to–make it into the armed forces. As to media coverage factoring in … not really. The police know that they’re permanently in the spotlight and should act accordingly.” When asked if he believes that the media gives a real look at the police he stated, “I’d say so. Most of the coverage I ~choose~ to review has been balanced. But I think that’s part of it too …. far too many people rely on one or two news sources to shape their views of ~anything~. I’ve seen the police applauded for great community work and criticized for atrocious actions within the same news source. Mind you, such sources as “Fox” and their ilk don’t make it on my radar, so I think I tend to get a more balanced view of coverage. MSM still tends towards polarizing their actions as “an ISSUE”, but they are balanced by the more independent sources out there.”
At one point Glenn Rose of Toronto wanted to be a Mountie. He responded, “The police often serve a purpose. They have a good retirement package. Used to work for RCMP, but somehow got too paranoid after six months.” His feelings on the media are strong. “Regarding the media … don’t get me started. Why is there so much Entertainment news instead of real news. The great pacifier. What sells/entertains has replaced substance. And the “sway” of the news is often watered down for “political reasons”. Go to another country and watch the coverage of (North) America.”
Toronto’s Kimia Said Djibril said, “I don’t hate the police, but I definitely feel that they do have some issues to resolve like any other organization. The media coverage of them only reinforces my belief that they’re not perfect. ”
JC Lam of Toronto said, “I don’t hate the police. Yet I always become disheartened when one of my students tells me that they’ve have a horrible encounter with officers in their neighbourhood. These meetings are stamped with ill-feeling because officers either lack the training to deal with young people who live in priority neighbourhoods or whose experience in a difficult job has eroded their sense of compassion or humanity. I feel a deep sense of empathy for both sides. Youths who live in priority neighbourhoods already have lots of barriers in their future success. Officers who have to deal with media representation of them often come across as being less than human. I envy neither.”
Peter Stamp of Toronto answered, “No, I don’t hate police but I’m sure the media has a huge influence on public’s feelings toward police. I know it’s a real issue in Vancouver. I’m sure there are a some Bad Apples.”
Kev Hedges, of the UK, said, “Me personally, no. But I know a man (who is a journalist) that does. Yes, media coverage of police on the local BBC London news is seriously critical of the Met Police. They pounce on the very smallest thing if they mess up.”
Kat McLean of Ontario said, “I wouldn’t say I hate cops……..I wouldn’t say I trust all of them either though. Some take advantage of their position and don’t stick to the law. I guess the media does factor a little into my opinion. Then again I don’t really listen/ watch the news all that much, too depressing. All I really have to go on is a friend who used to know a really dirty cop, so I figure if there’s one there’s got to be more.”
Lauri Stevens is an interactive media professional with over 25 years of media experience and is the founder and principal consultant with LAwS Communications. When asked if she hates the police Stevens answered, “No way. However, I’m very cognizant of the fact that the police profession has its share of people who make their colleagues look bad as every profession does. I’ve meet a few rogue cops myself.”
Stevens is in the unique position when it comes to the media working on both sides. “Prior to working so closely with law enforcement I would say media coverage factored in. It doesn’t any more though because I’m much more knowledgeable myself about what law officers do every day, the incredible amount of training and other expectations put on them,” Stevens said adding, “The media always focus on anything negative because it’s considered more newsworthy. But I believe that’s a myth that’s propagated by them. There are so very many stories within law enforcement that would support law enforcement and also be huge for news ratings that the media just doesn’t seem to get. The media, especially the national media have their priorities screwed up and most people, who can’t think for themselves, then make those priorities their own priorities.”