Posts Tagged ‘Police misconduct’

Police Deviance in Popular culture


Fictional representations of policing through Television (TV) programs and movies often portray police officers in an unrealistic manner. Unfortunately, many people (including myself) receive their information and knowledge about police through mass media (Reiner, 2010). This can be a cause for concern, as what is shown on TV or films, in regards to policing and police deviance are generally glamorized, or overly exemplified. The media’s image of policing does not depart from actual policing, but cannot be considered a mirror reflection either (Reiner, 2012).

Many police programs demonstrate rule- bending as an essential part of effective policing (Surette, 2007, as cited in Dirikx, Van den Bulck & Parmentier, 2012). The TV series “19-2” centers on two beat cops of the Montreal Police Department, Nick Barron played by Adrian Holmes and Ben Chartier played by Jared Keeso. This TV series provides many instances when police deviance and police misconduct occur and is normalized or not spoken of. Nick, a veteran cop gets partnered with a new transfer from a rural Quebec town (Ben) and from the very beginning Ben is introduced to the police culture at his new department. The police culture as Loftus, (2010) states are norms and values that shape officers everyday decisions and practices. We see many occasions where the actions of police officers are a result of the police culture. For example, every rookie must have an initiation and this series does not deviate from that cultural norm. Ben gets invited to the tavern which is the police pub and is offered his first drink (for free of course), and he takes it. While watching this I thought why he wouldn’t take the drink, had he refused he would have looked a fool.

The police culture is such that had Ben not taken the drink he would have been called on it, and would be considered more of an outsider than he already is. Within the first thirty minutes we see the sergeant tell Nick –who is irritated for being paired with a rookie – the “Commander shits on me, I shit on you…and you’ll have to go shit on the new guy” (Grou, 2014). The Sergeant then goes on to tell him that it’s just the way things work. This further elucidates the police culture in their precinct. Towards the end of the episode the Commanding Officer calls Ben into his office and instructs him to “cooperate” and give him cause to get his partner (Nick) fired. The Commander ends with “I think we have an understanding” (Grou, 2014). Ben was left with no choice as his patrol duty would be compromised and he would be given administrative work. However, when it came time to “rat out” on Nick –and there were many things Ben could have said, as Nick strays from the book –Ben refused to say anything responding with “he is my partner, there is a code” (Grou, 2014). The code Ben is implying would be what is referred to as the “Blue code of Silence”. This code is a key element in the police culture, as officers refrain from speaking about other officers and will lie to benefit their fellow officers. Accepting the code of silence and solidarity allows you to belong.19-2 (1) Ben did not deviate from the police culture norms as he kept his partner from getting fired, and as a result was given a desk job. During the second episode Ben catches one of the officers drinking on the job, and you can see the pained look on his face as he is struggling to uphold the blue wall, while also longing to say something. Ben has done this quite a few times already, where either he turns a blind eye or lies to save his partner, and this could lead to deviance is his career. He may be disturbed by what he is doing, however continuing to do so he will eventually become habituated (Punch, 2010).

As Punch, (2010) indicates there are many types of police officers and Nick portrays the “Dirty Harry”. He uses tough methods that are somewhat deviant which he deems appropriate to result in an arrest. He would use more violence when dealing with the public to get information, and it usually results in him finding the actual suspect. He would then explain to Ben that this is how it is done. Nick would rather deviate and get the job done doing whatever it took rather than let a criminal walk free. Ben on the other hand is what Punch, (2010) refers to as a “Professional”. He would not allow for procedure to be unlawfully enacted, and he works by the book. He considers his job very important, and relies on good, honest policing. Many other types of officers are also illustrated in the TV series. We see “crusaders” these officers are usually on the hunt for criminals and are obsessed with crime fighting; there are other officers who would be classified as Dirty Harrys’ as well. Lastly we also see a “Cowboy”. This officer is usually highly aggressive and would have issues with authority. The officer in the show picks on Ben and insults him through “jokes”. Punch, (2010) also discusses three levels of deviance, and many of the officers would also be classified as Grass eaters. Grass Eaters typically don’t look for trouble, or ways to deviate, but if something comes there way they are open to accept. For example, the officers all accept free meals and drink at their police pub. The officers accept the drinks, otherwise they would be considered deviant had they chosen not to participate.

Throughout the episode we see many forms of deviance and how it is either thought to be normal, or you turn a blind eye. In this series we also get to see what Van Maanen, (2005) refers to as “the asshole”. maxresdefaultVan Maanen, (2005) classifies citizens three ways: suspicious persons, know nothings and the asshole. The officers encounter daily interactions with the asshole. These people have no respect for them nor do they care for what they stand for. As a result, Nick may use excessive force towards these people and possibly jeopardize his career. They also encounter the know nothings, who nod their heads, and make their way, and the suspicious persons (mostly the troubled teenagers). Nick is able to justify his actions towards these people, because they are assholes. The lack of respect can allow an officer to perform “street justice” and rough up the individual they are dealing with (Van Maanen, 2005).

The representation of deviance in this police series is seen as normal, and will continue to be the norm, unless someone challenges it. However, it seems quite unlikely anyone will. Most of the officers are comfortable with the way things are and will not be susceptible to change. This media representation of the police department wasn’t as bad as many of the other police shows I have seen. They usually tend to glamorize and commend acts of violence to get the job done. 19-2 was raw and real, but of course being a TV series there will be many depictions of the police that are incorrect. The image this TV series provides is that police are generally accepted in the society and the public do respect them. Being a televised show they add a lot more high speed chases and crime fighting scenes than normal, and that contributes to a wrong view of what policing actually is. It makes the job seem like an action packed video game, when in reality most of policing isn’t fighting crime, but dealing with average problems that occur to citizens. It is important to note that while watching TV shows and movies about policing the media tend to over exaggerate and dramatize the whole thing. If we continue to receive our knowledge of policing through these fictional representations of action packed, crime fighting heroes, then everyone will want to be a cop. That being said policing is a dangerous job and they do portray the danger (just in a more glamorous way of course!)

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Dirikx, A., Van den Bulck, J., & Parmentier, S. (2012). The Police as Societal Moral Agents:   “Procedural Justice” and the Analysis of Police Fiction. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media56(1), 38-54.                       doi:10.1080/08838151.2011.651187

Grou, D (Director). (2014). 19-2 [Television series]. New York City: Bravo.

Loftus, B. (2010). Police occupational culture: classic themes, altered times. Policing and Society, 20(1), 1–20. doi:10.1080/10439460903281547

Punch, M. (2009). What is Corruption? In Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing (pp. 18-52). Portland: Willan Pub. [Coursepack]

Reiner, R. (2010). Mystifying the Police: The Media Presentation of Policing. In R. Reiner, The Politics of the police (Fourth, pp. 177-202). London: Oxford University Press

Van Maanen, J. (2005). The Asshole. In T. Newburn (Ed.), Policing: Key Readings (pp.280-296) Portland: Willan Pub [Coursepack]

Gord Hill’s Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book surrounding the Toronto 2010 G20 Summit reveals how the rebels are tarnishing the city and corporate buildings. They are dressed in black and wearing masks to hide their identity while they are being reckless. The issue with this comic is that it shows an us vs. them (police vs. the public). “We as police must fuck them, before they fuck us. The law and the system have tightened around us. We have no choice but to use these tactics of dishonesty” (Goldschmidt & Anonymous, 2008, p.113). The Toronto G20 protest was to be for things like better educational materials and a rally for gender justice, queer, and disability rights. Furthermore, the government spent billions of dollars for guards, police services, riot squad, and military troops. A whole mass of money was spent and paid to the police to ensure the protest was handled properly. Although, there were many complications such as innocent people being arrested, use of excessive force, misconduct, and use of profound language by the police. For instance, “police attacks on ‘non-violent’ protesters resulted in one death – Ian Tomlinson – a local resident beaten by police” (Hill, 2012, p.83).

The first day of resistance began June 21st. It was a hot day, many people showed up to rally and the police did their best to block off the rally. On June 24th, the first day of action, thousands of people showed up to participate in the march to move close to the G20 but were stopped by the police. The comic here shows police deviance and misconduct. On June 25th the author shows the police using unspeakable language towards people that would offend a reasonable person. For instance, in one of the drawings the authors shows police saying “wake up assholes! Show me your hands! Now!” (Hill, 2012, p.87). Police officers are always using these types of words toward the public. The number one complaint against the police is the use of their abusive language. It is mostly used by bent police officers that are sliding into corruption. Moreover, the comic reveals how the police eventually lost control and began to fall apart. Police vehicles were heavily damaged with police officers inside and some were eventually set on fire. The public is being held accountable the things that took placing during the G20 but in fact the police imposing the laws around the G20 had a role in how it turned out.

Overall, the Toronto G20 is one of the worst manifestations to occur in recent history. The G20 poses serious questions on police misconduct. The comic is very interesting and shows how the protesters were being denied their right of public speech and right to protest. Making the police look like the bad guys due to their misconduct and the use of excessive force.

References Cited

Goldschmidt, J., & Anonymous. (2008). The necessity of dishonesty: police deviance, ‘making     the case’, and the public good. Police & Society18(2), 113-135.

Hill, G. (2012). The anti-capitalist resistance comic book. British Columbia: Arsenal Pulp Press.

InfoWarriorsUnite. (Producer) (2010). Video of police assault on Ian Tomlinson, who died at the   london g20 protest [Web].                                                                                                 Retrieved from

As mentioned from previous post, police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy. Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability. Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow.  As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

First of all, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially unreliable and unsympathetic, one whom cannot be trusted with police information (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence, under the police subculture, is the code where each police officer shall rat out the secrets regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable.  From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First of all, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption. The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Civilian oversight also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts. As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

With this much influence on public policing, the community holds a sense of security and by making a difference, the community has a sense of fulfillment. When community become involved with participating in such experience, it “enhances police credibility, accountability, and ultimately, public confidence in police services” (Hrynewicz 2011, p.78).


Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.