Police Deviance and Accountability in Sons Of Anarchy

Posted: February 28, 2015 by JaskaranKahlon in Uncategorized

Fabricated portrayal of policing is a common component of popular movies and television series these days. The reason being, it is appealing and thrilling to watch police officers demonstrate their duties. Some of the popular television shows that display policing is Cops, Border Security and 48 hours. The following shows showcase the police world in a more entertaining fashion. However, we are continuously exposed to images of problematic and questionable practices of police.

In all, does this ruin our perspective of the police in modern day society? The increased emphasis may cause people to believe that police misconduct is an everyday practice. The following blog will discuss further in depth of the relationship between fiction and reality policing.

Sons Of Anarchy

In the fictional television series, Sons of Anarchy, police brutality and delinquency is broadcasted throughout the series. The show portrays the ongoing battle between motorcycle clubs fighting for jurisdictional space within a small town. More so, the show outlines the relationships with club members and corrupt police officers. The show takes place in modern day California within a small town by the name of Charming. As a means of employment and income, the club relies on unconventional ways such as, organized drug smuggling, brothels and import/export of heavy firearms. Moreover, there are consistent homicides as a result of conflict with rival gangs. As president of the motorcycle club, Jax Teller’s personal and club life is constantly clashing with each other. In order to keep both families protected, Jax finds himself dealing with local politicians and authorities throughout the seasons.

Police Deviance in Sons Of Anarchy

The first Authority that the Sons of Anarchy inherit is Wayne Unser. Unser was the Chief of Charming Police Department in the first season. Soon later, Unser resigned from his duties due to cancer. During and even after being Chief of Police, Unser was always a corrupt police officer. He regularly dealt with the Sons of Anarchy and was also compensated generously. However, the main reason Unser helped out the motorcycle club was because of his love for Gemma. Gemma was the mother of Jax Teller, who was the president of the club. Unser always fulfilled Gemma’s request, which were usually demands from the club. Unser saw the motorcycle club “as a benefit to the town” (Unser 2015). As long as they kept drugs and violence out of Charming, Unser would turn a blind eye. Unser and the club worked together to keep the community safe. Unfortunately, the president of the club killed Unser because of conflict with Gemma.

The second Authority that the Sons of Anarchy fashioned with was David Hale. Hale was next in line for the Chief position once Unser retires. Unlike Unser, Hale “wishes to purge the town of {Sons of Anarchy}” (Hale 2015). Hale wishes to remove the club out of Charming in order to create a gang and crime free town. As the seasons go by, Hale starts to show cooperation with the club. Hale realizes that the rival gangs are a bigger threat to charming than the Sons of Anarchy. From there on, Hale begins to understand Unser’s reasons for cooperating with the club and begins to comply with the club as well. Sadly, during one of the club member’s funeral, a drive by shooting kills David Hale.

The last authority that the Sons of Anarchy have contact with is Althea Jarry. Althea was determined to solve the murder of Tara Knowles; Jax Tellers wife. However, during the investigation, Jarry falls in love with Chibs Telford. Chibs is one of the original members of the club. Teller takes advantage of this by having chibs pay off Jarry in order to have the new chief of police on their side (Jarry 2015).

Ultimately, all Chiefs in the town end up working with the Sons of Anarchy. They all realize that it is more beneficial to work with the club rather than trying to take down the club. Moreover, trying to collapse the club created more trouble than peace. In the end, instead of trying to ruin the clubs drug and gun runs, they work together in order to keep peace in Charming.

Relationship Between Fiction and Reality

Considering the amount of police deviance in Sons of anarchy, it had me questioning if comparable events were happening in reality as well. The club that I decided to investigate was Hells Angels. Hells Angels Motorcycle club is one of the biggest and powerful clubs in the world. The riders typically ride on Harley Davidson motorcycles and are involved in organized crime. The club carries out violent crimes like trafficking, prostitution and robberies.

Likewise, related incidents with the police and Hells Angels were happening in reality as well. A conversation caught on tape-helped lead to the arrest of a former sergeant-detective accused of selling information to the Hells Angels (CBC 2015).


Moreover, another incident of the police helping club members was in Abbotsford, BC. Constable Christopher Nicholson was charged criminally in 2013 (Cooper 2015) due too tipping off confidential sources about pending drug busts and search warrants. Nicholson was trying to get his source an advantage over competitors and gain drug market shares. Abbotsford Police Chief comments that

“Its not about the soil. You don’t get maximum drug dealing profits without co-operation from police officers, border services and correction officers. So if you drill down, you find the relationship between police and drug dealers is a lot closer than you think. In many ways, this is the tip of colossal iceberg in B.C” (Cooper 2015).

Thereupon, it is evident that the incidents of police deviance in Sons of Anarchy are also evident in Reality. I am assuming that other popular motorcycle clubs like the Outlaws, Pagans, and Bandidos have police officers involved in police deviance as well.

Understanding the Role of Police In Modern Society

From my understanding of watching Sons Of Anarchy, I have realized that policing is not black and white. There is a lot of grey area’s that police must make important decisions in order to keep the overall peace. For instance, instead of the police in charming destroying the motorcycle club, they all decided to work together in order to keep the town safe.

Consequently, police in reality are involved in such manner as well. For instance, police try to recruit informants in order obtain information about criminal operations. Police can easily arrest a criminal but they are more focused on the bigger picture of recruiting the criminal into an informant. The police need to work with informants in order to find the ringleader. Which in all terminates the whole criminal organization.

Overall, it seems that utilitarianism is a key concept for police organizations. Police organizations want to maximize on situations in order to benefit everyone.

Underlying Themes and Messages

An underlying theme and message conveyed through television of police wrongdoing is the emphasis of the deviance. Media tries to incorporate as much drama in movies or shows in order to keep the audience interested. Viewers do not want to watch boring roles carried out by the police. They are further entertained by police corruption and deviance. Therefore, the emphasis of police deviance may generate individuals to believe that all police organizations are corrupt.


Althea Jarry. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://sonsofanarchy.wikia.com/wiki/Althea_Jarry

Cooper, S., 19, T. P. F., & 2015. (n.d.). “It”s going to be a circus’: Probe of Abbotsford Police Department corruption could unravel successes in fight against gangs. Retrieved February 27, 2015, fromhttp://www.theprovince.com/news/going+circus+Probe+Abbotsford+Police+Department+corruption+could+unravel+successes+fight/10824590/story.html

David Hale. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, fromhttp://sonsofanarchy.wikia.com/wiki/David_Hale

Hells Angel allegedly taped talks with ex-Montreal officer. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, fromhttp://www.cbc.ca/1.1931061

Wayne Unser. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, fromhttp://sonsofanarchy.wikia.com/wiki/Wayne_Unser

Walk the Line – Episodes – the fifth estate. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2013-2014/walk-the-line

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You begin your post with a general statement about the prevalence of fictional representations of policing. You state that the popularity of these representations is owed to the fact that “it is appealing and thrilling to watch police officers demonstrate their duties”. My question to you is – why? What is it about police work that makes for ‘appealing and thrilling’ fiction?

    I like the fact that you have chosen a case study that illustrates sustained, organized corruption related to a relationship between a police organization and a criminal organization. This helps us to move beyond the individualizing focus on police deviance as a ‘bad apple problem’, and to consider the structural forces that shape policing. I also commend you for the work you have put into drawing parallels between the events portrayed in Sons of Anarchy and ‘real world’ policing.

    The general theme of ‘grey areas’ is important. For more on this, check out the work of policing researcher Bob Hoogenboom. See me if you would like a copy of one of his articles on this.

    You conclude with a statement about utilitarianism being the key concept informing the work of police organizations. What evidence do we have that this is the case? Are there competing philosophies that inform policing?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s