Fictional representation of the police

Reiner claims, "Overall, I think the fictional representation of the police has worked towards the legitimation of the police. In the culture of the 1950s, if you'd shown the police behaving the way the bill do, it would have shocked people. The changing representations are really ways of maintaining a degree of acceptance for the police in a climate of changing cultural expectations. All of these series represent the police essentially as heroic figures struggling to do a job under very difficult circumstances. "

The media have on many occasions been accused of being out of touch with reality as they fail to address real life issues. 'Officers have variously been portrayed as caring, controlling, corrupting and corrupted' (Manning, 1997). When shows such as The Bill have attempted to address contemporary issues and show real life roles of the police, they have often tended to overreact and take the story too far. Manning (1997) found that in contemporary dramas, high ranking females, ethnic minority officers and gay officers are represented far more on television than in actual real life.

It is clear that the media shape our perceptions of the police and this is undoubtedly so as the majority of the population do not ever have any close contact or relationship with a police officer and therefore, their only knowledge is that provided by a third party and that tend to be on the whole, the media. This point is highlighted by Jewkes (2005) who claims that 'Dixon… played a key role in shaping cultural perceptions of policing in the mid to late twentieth century and remains a looming presence in the British psyche'.

Although the police are generally shown in a fictional context, documentaries such as crimewatch and police camera action give a more realistic view of the police and this is probably due to the increased involvement the police have with the making of programmes such as these. James Smart, Controller of BBC Scotland said in 2001 that the changing attitudes of the last forty years towards the police have been represented in police dramas and show how the police wish themselves to be portrayed. Despite the criticisms the media face, it is they that remain a 'vital source of information for viewers' (Manning, 1997).

'In an age where the police have been accused of institutional racism (the result of the Macpherson Steven Lawrence murder enquiry where the Metropolitan Police were accused of being 'institutionally racist'), incompetent murder investigations (Sussex police who failed to investigate properly the murder of Jay Abatan outside a nightclub in 1994) and recurring corruption (West Midlands serious crime squad in the 1970's which led to the wrongful conviction of the Birmingham six), dramatic portrayals of police work and of the nature of crime and criminal justice perform an important symbolic function and help to perpetuate a mythology of policing' (Manning, 1997).


'Birmingham 6' http://innocent. org. uk/cases/birmingham6/ visited on 03/01/06 Croall, H (2005) 'Crime and Technology' in Criminal Justice Matters no 59 editorial produced by Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (Kings College London) 'Cult – Classic TV' www. bbc. co. uk/cult/classic/titles/clip6. shtml visited on 07/12/05 Delaney, S (2003) 'TV Police Drama'  www. screenonline. org. uk/tv/id/445716/ visited on 08/12/05 Hopkins, N (2003) 'It's time to bring back Dixon, says Met' http://www. guardian. co. uk/crime/article/0,,904477,00. html visited on 09/12/05