In the recent past, law enforcement in various parts of the world has come under serious threat from different types of media. In the United States, law enforcement agencies argue that their work is greatly affected by the misrepresentation made by electronic, print, and social media (Colbran, 2014). They fear that in the contemporary world, social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are negatively affecting their work and playing a major role in the rising cases of violence across the country. The misrepresentation of law enforcement by media has been termed as the biggest challenge that authorities have had to deal with in the contemporary world of high technological advancements.
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People have developed a tendency to make video recordings of various interactions between law enforcement agencies and the public, which are shared on social media (Colbran, 2014). The police argue that even the mainstream media often highlights scenes where they use excessive force to maintain law and order while ignoring all the good things they do for the people they serve. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the negative manner in which law enforcement agencies are portrayed by the media negatively affects their relationship with the public because people tend to feel insecure and vulnerable (Garner, 2012). Social media has played a major role in the strained relationships between the public and law enforcement officers in various parts of the country, as people spend a lot of time discussing the negative images and baseless propaganda posted by others.
In the United States, the media has always been at the forefront in addressing the challenge of police brutality. The most documented cases involve shootings and constant altercations between the police and members of the African American community (Colbran, 2014). However, most of these cases are often blown out of proportion by the media that focus on showing the way police officers kill innocent people and ignoring the crime committed. This explains the argument by law enforcement agencies that this kind of misrepresentation often contributes to the increase in criminal activities because it influences people into protests against the police.
According to public relations experts, police officers in the United States have a hard time doing their job because the media has created the country’s information platforms on the elements of racism, violence, police brutality, and exploitation (Colbran, 2014). Cases involving shootings are the ones mostly used by the media to portray the law enforcement agencies in a bad light. The media often like to pit the white American community against the members of the black community where the shooters are always reported to be white, while the victims tend to be from a minority group (Garner, 2012). This has created an image or an impression that law enforcement agencies unlawfully target innocent black Americans during their operations.
Cases of shooting that involve white police officers and African American victims often receive massive coverage and discussion time across all forms of media compared to the rest. Psychologists argue that the public has mastered the art of playing the victim when dealing with law enforcement agencies through the help of the media. It ignores reporting on the time that officers take negotiating with criminals before shooting them because of provocation (Garner, 2012). It portrays members of the black community as criminals who are always targeted by police officers. The media has instilled fear in public with regard to the power of the Black Lives Matter Movement as a way of validating their claims that members of the African American community often face a lot of brutality from the police.
This situation has not been made any better by the existence of smartphones and the increasing number of people using social media. People use their phones to record video clips and report various incidents of police misconduct by posting them on social media (Garner, 2012). These videos are shared widely. Various senders end up creating a negative image of the work of law enforcement agencies. The police argue that the challenge does not lie in people recording and sharing their confrontations with the public, but the manner in which the whole situation is put in the wrong context and shared with people that have little knowledge about the real events that took place (Colbran, 2014). People have also gone to the extent of using videos and images from movies involving shootings to insinuate that they are real events of the police using excessive force.
The misrepresentation of law enforcement across all media affects the public in various ways. In the United States, the media has contributed to the development of various divisions within the black community because it portrays them as criminals (Garner, 2012). Most of them make an honest living and do not want to be associated with every crime that happens across the country. Americans have been made to believe that a crime is based on race. This has affected the fight against racism in the country, as many white Americans argue that they tend to feel unsafe around members of the black community (Colbran, 2014). The misrepresentation by the media has also contributed to the losing public trust in the law enforcement agencies. It has portrayed police officers as incompetent, inhuman, and overly insensitive to the safety of the people they are supposed to protect.
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The media has an ethical responsibility of informing and educating the public using valid stories that are not put in the wrong context for the sake of getting more viewers or pushing their own agendas. Many valuable acts conducted by members of law enforcement agencies are often ignored and misrepresented by the media without considering the negative impacts it may be having on the parties involved. The media has made the public believe that police officer are inhuman and racists because most of the stories they tell portray the law enforcement agencies in a bad light. Contemporary media disregards the safety of the police officers and the need to end racism. In addition, they avoid addressing the deteriorating relationship between law enforcement agencies and the public. The increasing use of social media has also contributed to the misrepresentation of the law enforcement because people tend to share images and video clips with other users without taking time to establish their validity. There is an urgent need for the media to change the way they tell stories involving the police and their work. It is important to tell both sides of the story and avoid focusing too much on the elements they perceive to be negative about law enforcement.
Colbran, M. (2014). Media representations of police and crime: Shaping the police television drama. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Garner, G.W. (2012). News media relations for law enforcement leaders. New York, NY: Charles C Thomas Publisher.