Police Culture Clouded by Media Portrayal

Posted: February 28, 2015 by nlaii in Uncategorized

The media is filled with top stories on what is happening around the world. These news reporting’s are selected according to audience attraction to certain types of stories. Recently, police accountably has been a very hot topic for top stories in the media. There is a new sense of police viability that allows the police to be recorded by viewers and quickly uploadthese onto the Internet causing immediate reactions. Unfortunately, as a form of entertainment, all the media in our society acts as another piece of cultural junk food that is enjoyable but unhealthy.Chicago PD


Chicago P.D. is a very popular crime fighting show that airs on television. The series is packed with a ton of police interactions with civilians and even the fire department. One of the main characters who is always in the spot light is Sergeant Hank Voight. Hank Voight is a prime example of a “dirty cop” along with plenty of other police officers on his team that act the same way he does. Under the Knapp Commission Typology, Sergeant Hank Voight falls under the category of a meat eater:

‘Proactive carnivores’ in search of graft. Meat-Eaters sought out opportunities to exchange police authority for some form of benefit. “The meat-eaters are different. They’re out looking. They’re on a pad with gamblers, they deal in junk, or they’d compromise a homicide investigate for money”.

This sort of typology is very accurate for his characters type of police deviance and corruption because Voight uses his police authority to benefit him and his team. He takes criminals down to an unseen basement and beats leads out of suspects. If Hank Voight were to be an officer in Canada, he would almost always be breaching The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Almost every episode he would be violating Section 8 of the Charter that states:

“Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and Seizure”

He would not only break that section of the Charter but many times he would be breaking Section 9 of the Charter that states:

“ Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”

Punch attempted to understand diverse motivations of officers who are involved in police deviance and corruption. To better understand what classification Hank Voight would be classified under a “Dirty Harry/Noble”. In every episode Hank Voight and the investigations department ‘get results’ by using practices that would other not be ethical in the real world.

Social media plays a large role in how society keeps up to date with current events. Social media has evolved rapidly and has become the main reference point for trending events. New casters follow new values of ‘news worthy’ reports one of which includes violence or conflict. Violence is one of the news worthy values because it fulfills the media’s desire to present dramatic events in the most graphic possible fashion. (Jewkws, 2011) Police deviance is always news worthy reporting because it displays conflict. Although many of the stories covered are very exaggerated, these authoritive figures who partake in deviant activity taint the whole police image. Unfortunately many people in society only have these new reporting’s as their main source of update with their communities. These stories create moral panic in communities, as it seems as if there is always violence in their backyard. Unfortunately with the news values society rarely see incidents of police work done well, this creating a constant image of not so good police work.

Police deviance is always going to be a topic of interest; they are constantly being recorded, and watched. Constant watch of police officers by others or peers may cloud an officers judgment, here is an example of one:


Watch closely at the incident that happened this incident took place in Washington State. A 35 year-old man named Antonio Zambrano- Montes was merely throwing rocks at cars in the grocery store parking lot. Zambrano-Montes ran across the street while an officer chased him then shot him after trying milder measures, which included commands to NYcsurrender, and firing a taster. As shown in the video Zambrano-Montes turns towards the officers, falls to the ground, and dies. Stories such as this one are always the ones of high interest because it involves conflict with authority. It raises speculation of how the law enforcement, that we trust to protect us, will react to an incident that stared as such a little problem. Naturally people start to form opinions and judgments of the incident without full coverage and knowledge to the facts. Media reports such as these ones really make society question whether or not the police are being accountable for their actions.

Fictional representations of police work can be quite confusing, especially with all the different aspects of police work. The behaviors and the situations that are displayed in televisions shows and real life are quite far off. In televisions shows or movies, it is always smooth sailing for police officers as they always get the job done by the time the hour is over (even with commercials). Sometimes in order to do so the police must display practices that are not lawful. Some people in society who are oblivious to the clear division of police work in the real world verses the police work done in shows are also confused by the constant updates with police deviance in the news, potentially causing doubt and even fear of the police.


(n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTBb-1m8OZ9vVXOTsSRW8XioQmH9Rxn81WAR0hqEOrDT2iNUuB1

(n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSMtypV_Y1qBh8XiJFRIFa9WXgO4-yuwvoRQDIo5mnsotxzasT5

Southall, A. (2015, February 12). Police Killing of Man Who Threw Rocks Is Reviewed in Washington State. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/us/police-killing-of-man-who-threw-rocks-is-reviewed-in-pasco-washington.html?_r=1

Search, seizure, arrest and detention under the Charter (91-7E). (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/CIR/917-e.htm#C. Arrest

(n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRGlzqS8Nv_35TM8zIN_VzwllNwSmg51Adgk93q8wACpg25WXyV

Jewkes, Y. (2011). Media & Crime. London: SAGE Publications.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Your first paragraph concludes with “Unfortunately, as a form of entertainment, all the media in our society acts as another piece of cultural junk food that is enjoyable but unhealthy”. This is a sweeping statement, and it requires some explanation and support. It would seem that you are suggesting that all forms of entertainment media are ‘culturally unhealthy’. You are welcome to this opinion, of course, but I would like to see some supporting argumentation. All societies and cultures produce and consume media for a variety of reasons, including entertainment. Surely there must be some value to this, though it may be unevenly distributed. For instance, I find the TV program The Wire to be entertaining, accurate in its depiction of urban policing in the USA, and a powerful commentary on the politics of ‘the system’. It provides some valuable intellectual sustenance, and I would be loathe to consider it ‘junk food’.

    There appears to be a contradiction in your analysis of the Hank Voight character. On the one hand, you describe him as an example of a ‘meat-eater’, drawing on the Knapp typology. Meat-eaters are, as you note in the quote you provide, involved in proactive corruption in pursuit of personal gain. They are ‘crooked’, in the classic sense. Later in your post, you refer to Voight as an example of the ‘Dirty Harry typology’, because he breaks the rules to get results. One of the characteristics of the ‘Dirty Harry’ or ‘noble causer’ type is that it involves ‘ends justify the means’ calculations that do not involve the pursuit of personal gain. The original Dirty Harry, for example (played by Clint Eastwood), would certainly engage in the sorts of ‘break the rules to get the job done’ activities that you associate with Voight, but he would never accept a bribe or engage in corruption for personal gain. So, a question for clarification: Does the TV program depict Voight engaging in both noble cause corruption and corruption for personal gain? If so, this is an interesting blending of genres.

    Question: How does the shooting of Mr. Zambrano-Montes relate to fictional representations of police deviance?