Scenario: You are newly assigned to the detective bureau within your police department. You and your partner have just been dispatched to a suspicious death. When you get to the location, you find the media already set up and broadcasting live. As you approach, a reporter with a microphone in hand asks you specific questions related to the incident. You politely tell her that any and all information related to the incident will be forthcoming in a timely manner by the department’s information officer. In what ways do the media overdramatize crime?
There are many forms of media that overdramatize crime, mostly homicides. There are books, television shows, movies, and even news stories that show or talk about the crime in an unrealistic manner. However, in an article by Jason Jensen, there was mention that the crime rate has remained “fairly steady” and has even declined some since 1993. Jensen had taken this information from an article entitled Fundamentals of criminal justice: A sociological view, by authors S. E. Barken and G. J. Bryjak (Jensen Private Investigations Website, 2012).
Media overdramatizes crime in two ways according to this article. First of all, the way the media presents crime stories to begin with, and focusing on violent crimes for the second way (Jensen, 2012). What effect does the media treatment of crime have on public opinion? Americans say they get important information from the media. For example: one national survey showed 81% of the people based their opinions on how bad the crime problem was reported to be by listening to the news. Others (41%) said TV was a determinate, 37% said magazines are where they got their information, and 36% blamed newspapers.
Most people say all forms of the media are extremely powerful. They feel the media can inject their own point of view into their audience, and influence their decisions (Beale, 2006). At the other end of the discussion, some people think the media has very little influence on any situation because not everyone follows the news that is given, and also that most adults have already formed their opinions regarding crime (Paletz, 2002, p. 117-118). How should law enforcement agencies address media interviews and information dissemination?
In addressing the media interviews and giving information, the accuracy of that information is critical and essential to get it correct the first time. Correctness of information the first time prevents the department from having to issue any corrections. If there are corrections to be made, they need to be made immediately. The public and the department need to hear from the Chief of Police what needs to be said. Information should be given reasonably quickly, but accurately so no speculation is inserted. Caution should be taken however to avoid early release of any information that might hamper the investigation (Jensen, 2012).
In what ways does the news media help create and reinforce crime myths? TV shows give the impression people think are real! Media reports information that twists the public perception on the rate of crime and who commits these crimes. The media reports issues and it has an effect on the public perception and influences their opinions. By influencing the public’s opinion, that creates policies, and policies create laws. So it is very important to report accurately (Jensen, 2012). What are the effects of crime myths on law enforcement agencies?
I think Jason Jensen said it best, when he said “because the media presents crime disproportionately, the public receives a false impression that all crime is violent. Problems with the media reporting contributed to crime myths. Political speech-making adds to prolong the public’s opinion that crime is worse than it truly is. An additional source of crime myths come from police departments themselves. An example would be when the media asks the Chief of Police a question, and he answers “no comment”. A better response would have been to say “I cannot answer right now because the investigation is still ongoing”.
By saying no comment, the public imagines conspiracies, a blotched investigation, and believes that the crime will go unpunished (Jensen, 2012). How should administrations address these myths? Law enforcement executives must prepare themselves to be spokespersons or have assigned a well-trained spokesperson in place before media calls upon the department for answers to questions. The department needs to develop and maintain a media policy. They also need to provide training concerning media interviews and the distribution of information (Jensen, 2012).
References Beale, S. (2006). How the media treatment of crime affects public opinion and criminal justice policy. Retrieved from http://scholarship. law. wm. edu/wmir/vol48/iss2/2 Jensen Private Investigations Website. (2012). http://www. jensenprivateinvestigations. com/law-enforcement-and-media Jensen, J. K. (2012). The overdramatize of crime. Retrieved from http://www. jensenprivateinvestigations. com/law-enforcement-and-the-media Paletz, D. L. (2002). The media in american politics: Contents and consequences (2nd ed. ). New York, New York: Longman.