The media is a very powerful source of supplying information to the public, whether it be certain and factual, here-say, or guessing. It is used to influence the opinion of the public, and causes people to take sides. For many organizations and community groups, gaining consistent and positive coverage in media can have an incredible impact on the work they do. Social media has the capability to reach wider audience and snowball a small situation into a huge issue, and even if something isn’t racial, the public can make it seem that way by twisting the words, using only seconds of videos posted on the internet, and come to conclusions that can be detrimental to an investigation. It provides free publicity and exposure for news, announcements, acts, events and requests.
Thus, one of the most significant powers of media coverage is its ability to shape public opinions but in reverse cases may also result in the situation of panic. Since, it is the powerful tool to provide crucial information to the public, but too much information, especially on ongoing cases can be problematic. Police have the responsibility to defend and protect public and the media face police forces that are unwilling to share information, which causes a gap in how the public views the police, and breaking trust. When both of these parties, police and media align their purpose, and work together to protect citizens, they can create a powerful and effective alliance.
Media coverage on police shootings has a significant impact on the view of the people towards law enforcement as it may result in several pressures as well; resulting in anxiety, fear and stress. If the people are aware that police are there to help them, the confidence in the law enforcement officers will be generated and vice versa is also true, the departments goal is transparency, but what some do not understand is they cannot be 100% transparent and provide details on an ongoing case, it is against protocol and can severely harm the case. The working and actions of police is generally not known to normal public, but it is this media coverage that acquaints the public by their actions by updating with the positives and negatives as well. Police officers and their supervisors are aware of the after effects of media coverage about a citizen’s negative encounter with the police, as it may lead to eruption of public scandal and can quickly destroy their efforts to nurture a positive relation with the public.
In the current state, police agree that the public support is important so as to fight with the crime effectively and for the legitimacy of the police as well(Miller Joel, Davis Robert C., et al, May 2004). While research shows that people often support police but not all segments of society hold equally positive viewpoints and media coverage plays significant role in shaping these views. It is evident that public support depends on public perception about the working of police which need to be fair and professional. We can see the positive impact of media coverage in the DC Sniper case as transmitting the information to public led directly to the snipers’ capture. Despite significant initial hesitation on the part of the police to involve the media in the case, the public disclosure of information ultimately solved the case (Benney Jess, Case Study: the 2002 D.C. Sniper Attacks). Thus, media coverage can be effectively used by the law enforcement officers as a thin line is present between media coverage being helpful or detrimental to an investigation and shooting cases. When the police force and the media, are able to disseminate and align what they both believe to be an appropriate amount of information to the people, it can increase the safety of the community and can minimize the negative cases from the society(Benney Jess, Case Study: the 2002 D.C. Sniper Attacks).
It is usually found that the opinions of the police are positive and stable over time. The shift on the opinion takes place with the introduction of new police policy and media scandals, but the people who have experienced the negative contact with the police have less favorable opinion for the police. Added to this, positive experiences with police, whether direct or vicarious, are not associated with more favorable opinions of the police. Thus, it can be said that reducing the number of negative encounters can only result in improving public opinion in front of civilians and for this police officers have to move towards increasing the number of positive encounters. Furthermore, police officers should not assume that good and effective media coverage of ordinary police activities can overcome the effect of unreported negative encounters.
With this, police officers have range of choices about how to use limited time and resources so to persuade civilians that they operate with integrity and professionally(Miller Joel, Davis Robert C., et al, May 2004). Some of the tools by which police gets positive media coverage are public relations campaigns, retraining patrol officers in managing encounters with the public, winning over particular segments of the public through specialized community affairs staff and improving supervisors’ capacity to monitor and improve the behavior of officers in their encounters with the public. Thus, as police choose among above mentioned options, they will benefit from more information about how public attitudes toward the police are formed.
On the other side of the coin, media coverage of police shootings has several negative outcomes as it may display the abuse of authority of police whereby there are several cases when fellow officers use more force than necessary while carrying out their activities and can often into improper conduct as well, that can damage their reputation and trust as well (Samuels Julie E. May 2000). Added to this, there are several negative actions of law enforcement officers that if get media coverage negatively treated by the general public.
Several researches have been carried out so as to judge the level of impact of media coverage on police shootings and it was found that regular public and police interactions is important and this interaction is possible via effective media coverage. Thus, police department can create and sustain the confidence of the public in their actions and the opinion is subjected to shift as well from the angle of media coverage. Along with media coverage, friends and relatives negative experiences also affect the attitude and views towards the police(Miller Joel, Davis Robert C., et al, May 2004).
.Some of the possible influences of media coverage on police shootings are: firstly, it influences indirect police and public contact, as the behavior of the police during shootings could affect the opinion of the public via ripple effect because the person who has been subjected to shooting will communicate his stories to friends, family and relatives. Secondly, the media coverage can cause the contact to assume a disproportionate and amplified impact on public opinion as compared to larger public and police interactions that are positive and do not even attract attention of media.
We can see the impact of media coverage via several examples. For instance, the Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo incidents in New York and the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles were the two events that were covered extensively by the media and as a result of this coverage large numbers of people responded to the incidents with outrage. These highly publicized negative events resulted in substantial shifts in the attitude of public toward the police in public opinion polls especially among blacks and Hispanics. Although, these examples do not distinguish measured variations in the extent of media coverage as a causal factor in the shifts in public opinion and does not address the influence of how public opinion might be affected by more routine media coverage of the police.
In conclusion, management of police communications with the media, has been subjected to increase in professionalization and this involves greater organization and strategic planning. The media coverage is responsible for promoting and limiting damage to the reputations of the police departments (Miller Joel, Davis Robert C., et al, May 2004). It would be wrong to suggest that police managers should not be concerned about the media’s representation of the police. Yet several measures need to be taken so as to effectively manage the media profile of police department. The public opinion is positive and robust in the face of a degree of variation in news coverage of the police-both objectively measured, and subjectively experienced. These findings suggest that routine management of the media may not significantly impact public opinion but when there are no major police scandals; police departments’ media management may not be effective at improving public opinion. This is so because efforts to improve the quality of police and public interactions, which clearly are important to public confidence, may be more successful.