The Importance of Studying Police Deviance

Posted: January 17, 2013 by scott0113 in Uncategorized

As a current student of Criminology with a future goal of studying Forensics of Criminology, it is important to know as much about Police deviance as possible.  No matter what career path is set before you, it is important to know the good and bad aspects of that career.  The importance of this fact is amplified when you consider how recognizable the police force is, especially when they are caught committing an action that is considered deviant and exposed on a global scale through various media outlets including YouTube.   What other careers do you know of where they are entrusted with protecting every day citizens; while at the same time have access to extraordinary powers to preserve that peace.

There is no doubt with the current technology available in this Late Modernity global world we live in, we have aspects of our lives that have changed forever.  No longer can those working in the public eye do their job without some concern that if they step out of line, it will be caught on video.   Almost everyone now-a-days carries a cell phone that also doubles as a camera and video phone.  Truly we live in a time where technology and globalization has merged where police deviance are magnified and displayed more than ever before.

Then there is the media where any transgression a police officer commits is repeatedly aired on television and radio over and over again.  This also adds to tarnish the entire police force as people in general tend to hear mainly the bad and corrupt actions, but rarely those actions that bring a positive light to the police department.  For every good deed a police officer performs like buying shoes for a homeless man, there are many more examples of police deviance.

Is the media portrayal of police deviance and excessive force the norm?  If you do a quick search on YouTube for police deviance, many examples will be available for viewing.  This video clip shows a cop kick a man in the head, even after he is already restrained.  Another video shows police deviance where he already has his suspect hand cuffed in the back of a police cruiser, but continues to threaten the suspect with a Taser gun.  Then there is an unbelievable video showing an officer beating up a doctor who is legally blind.  Such actions are undeniably deviant and should be exposed as unacceptable and be punished.  However, does such action show the true “colours” of the police department at large, or is it a single individual being caught doing wrong?  Should the entire police department share the same blemish as that individual?

Then just the other day I happened to meet a cousin of mine that I rarely see.  He had no idea I have been studying Criminology for the last couple of years.  When I mentioned one of the courses I am taking deals with police deviance, all he did was chuckle and mention that he knows a few people that want to be police officers as a means for their own ill-gotten gain.  No doubt, I hope those individuals do not make it onto any police force.  This however, does bring up another problem that the police force must deal with in trying to keep their legitimacy in place as adhering to the rules the law sets out before them.  How can you ensure those you hire as police officers are truly interested in adhering to the law?

In the end the study of police deviance is not to prove or disprove its existence, but to know how, why, and how prevalent police deviance actually is.  Since in the future I will most likely be working with the police force in one form or another, it is paramount that I understand the full scope of police deviance.  I need to understand the extent and complexity of police deviance and not the sensationalized portrayal the media tends to expose police corruption for or the video clips made available on media outlets.  In the end, all those going into policing and the criminology field must choose for themselves how they plan to conduct themselves when they start their career.  It is up to us, including myself to conduct ourselves in a manner that does not blemish the police department or whatever agency we happened to work for.  To know where things can go wrong is the first step to ensure we do not follow in any such deviant behavior ourselves.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Excellent commentary, particularly given your engagement with the idea of the unique role and mandate of policing and the contemporary socio-historical context.

    In relation to recorded images of wrongdoing, you ask: “However, does such action show the true “colours” of the police department at large, or is it a single individual being caught doing wrong? Should the entire police department share the same blemish as that individual?”

    This is one of the central overarching questions for us. Punch (2009) presents a study of police deviance that is informed by the sociology of organizations. This, in my experience, is the most accurate and comprehensive way of approaching police deviance. It allows for individual agency and moral choice, but it situates these choices within a social setting, and particularly in relation to the characteristics of police organizations.

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