Criminal Justice and the Media Biases and Misrepresentations

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As I walk down the street and spot a law enforcement agent, I try to act as normal as possible but am also overcome with nervousness, fearing the officer will stop me for simply looking suspicious. A large portion of my fear of the police comes from their portrayal by the media as unyielding enforcers of the rulebook and ruthless wielders of power. While law enforcement often receives such a negative image, this is not always accurate, for they play an important role in our community.

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In this nation, we elect to have laws that define the limits of our behavior. However, if these laws go unenforced, they lose their effectiveness. Aiming to dissuade crime, we create penalties for lawbreakers. An aspect of a police officer’s job encompasses the enforcement of the law—they may issue a fine, such as a ticket, to a person who runs a red light. This responsibility contributes to the negative view American society holds of the police since they are associated with punishing and stopping people to enforce the law. Counteracting the prevalent viewpoint that police merely exist to dole out punishments, Inciardi suggests that their peacekeeping activities also encompass “areas of public service such as directing traffic, resolving disputes… and assisting children” (Inciardi 182). Thus, it’s safe to say we rely on our police forces for duties that extend far beyond crime prevention.

However, maintaining a police force does have implications for our civil liberties. For instance, the surveillance carried out by a police officer intrudes upon my privacy as I walk down the street. It grants the police authority over private citizens, who may resent this curtailment of their freedom. This is exemplified when Inciardi refers to a police observer who gives an example illustrating this loss of autonomy—the person in the example would contact the police instead of shooting the individual trying to cut down his tree, thus relinquishing his right to use force and leaving it up to the authorities (Inciardi 184-185).

Through means of bias, the media can skew our perception of the police, leading to a more negative viewpoint regarding their use of force. A blatant example of this is in an article by Michael Snyder, which states, “Just today, there have been stories about police killing a baby deer at an animal shelter and about officers killing a 95-year-old World War II veteran at a nursing home…” (Snyder).

This bias results in creating public opinion that often overlooks the many positive contributions such as ensuring public safety that law enforcement provided during the week. Another factor to consider in the media’s coverage of law enforcement is its tendency to favor profitability. In the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, according to Jaime Ortega, the media “turned the entire case into a racially biased solo prosecution to capitalize on Zimmerman’s guilt and sponsor an anti-Zimmerman campaign that lasted for over a year” (Ortega).

This emphasis skews the case by focusing heavily on spin and convenient omissions of facts, such as Trayvon Martin’s past record. This favors a one-sided view that Zimmerman must be punished. By doing so, the issue can be inflated into a more dramatic topic that raises money for the news and activist groups supporting Trayvon. Referring back to police situations, an example of an unusual act that grabs more attention than the everyday successful tasks is; the police killing a young deer. It’s a story that piques more interest than a narrative about a police officer successfully managing traffic on a busy road, thus raising more revenue for the media.

Law enforcement, with its role in safeguarding our safety and maintaining peace, certainly does more good than harm. It is only our misconceptions and biases supplied by the media that make us feel as if the opposite is true.

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Criminal Justice and the Media Biases and Misrepresentations. (2022, Dec 17). Retrieved from