Media Bias: Police Use of Force Portrayal

About this essay

The use of coercive authority by police has long been a controversial subject. The police in our country are trained to maintain law and order in a dangerous society. When hostile situations arise, police should be able to assert force in order to protect themselves and the lives of innocent bystanders.

The media in our country write stories everyday about police. More often than not, these stories are not thanking them for a job well done. Police are often free game to the criticism of the media.

The newspapers in America are the biggest second guessers in our country. When the police have to use deadly force, the media will write a story about the shooting being unnecessary. Members of the media do not understand that the police never want to shoot a suspect.

However, situations occur where the only available option is to shoot the suspect. Arrests are even worse than shootings. Several times when a suspect is arrested, the media makes him look like the victim.

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The facts of cases are exaggerated in order to sell papers. This usually is done at the expense of the police. For example, the Boston Globe editors assign reporters to different stories. The editors even tell the reporters what questions to ask, who to get the information from, and the direction of the story (Kelly 62 ). The stories often appear quite different when the morning paper is printed. The reason is because in a lot of places the police are not well liked. Therefore, the general idea is to take advantage of the tension and make some money? I don’t care for that idea at all.

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Does the media have the right to know when coercive authority is used? Some papers seem to think the are entitled to information. For example, in Los Angeles the press recently filed a lawsuit to force the police to release records of police shootings (Kelly 66 ). The media claimed they were looking to see if any patterns were present. Fortunately, there lawsuit met some resistance as they were denied. The relationship of media and police in Philadelphia is so strained that cops face disciplinary action of they are seen talking to the media. The media will then try to meet cops when they get off work to get the information on crimes.

The situations listed above are just some examples of relationships between media and police. In some cases the media are the most helpful tool the police have. For example, America’s Most Wanted has helped police arrest over 350 criminals who were running from the law. The show tells the stories of the criminals and also shows pictures of how they look. The show even helped the Columbus Police Department apprehend one of the most dangerous criminals in our country.

Police are trained to maintain law and order. They also have procedures they must follow for most situations. Upon hiring, a new cadet must go through training at the local police academy. For up to 10 weeks the cadet will learn everything from making an arrest, to self-defense. The laws of the states and nation are the biggest area of focus for cadets at the academy. While in the academy the cadets study and have tests on the material they are learning. Proper procedure for arrest, car chases, and uncooperative criminals are also studied in the academy.

After graduation the cadet will now start patrolling the streets. As a cop working the streets, sometimes you do not have a partner. When a hostile situation arises, the officer is all alone until back-up arrives. When a crime is committed, a suspect or suspects need to be apprehended in a reasonable manner. Procedure is followed from least to most threatening to the officer (Aziz 113). Depending upon the actions of the suspect(s), the officer will use different types of force to exercise authority. When a suspect poses no threat to an officer, there is no need to draw weapons or restrain a person through force. However, when facing a life-threatening situation the officer will draw his weapon to protect himself.

Police departments each have their own policies about use of force. Also the size and strength of an officer will factor into these policies. Women officers have more justification for drawing a weapon for protection. When a 300 pound man is taking on a 110 pound female officer, she needs to even things up. If shooting a threatening suspect is required for a female officer to protect herself, then that is how it goes sometimes. Despite the size difference, female officers should be able to serve and protect the public as well as themselves.

Male officers have to be more cautious when using force. A 250 pound officer will have a lot of questions to answer if he shoots and kills a 150 pound male suspect. The defense in a court case will most likely focus on the size differential and claim the shooting unjustified. As a male officer, you would want to restrain from using your gun until absolutely certain you are in grave danger. If not, be prepared for a long court battle and to answer many questions.

All officers are trained in self-defense in the police academy. However, that doesn’t always work when enforcing the law. Officers have bullet-proof vests to protect them from gun shots. However, if a criminal is shooting at an officer then procedure allows the officer to return fire in a “safe and efficient manner” ( Aziz, 190 ).

I have no problem with a police officer shooting back when shots are fired at them. Also, when an officer is outnumbered by criminals, the use of strong force is justified. Not only does it protect the officer, but it could help put a criminal into custody. As an officer and a private citizen, officers must know that deadly force can only be used when the life on an innocent person is in danger. Also, there must be no other way to retreat from the danger (Hunter 101 ).

One of the most famous cases of outnumbered police officers involves Edmund Perry. Perry was a Harlem resident who mugged an officer with one of his buddies. The officer fired a shot while on the ground and killed Perry (Anson 114). The officer was not charged because he was in the act of defending himself from two attackers. However, the infamous media turned the case into a white officer shooting a black suspect with no real justification. When the case went to court, the jury heard the facts.

The facts of the case were these: the officer was attacked from behind by two men, after a severe beating the officer drew his weapon and fired a shot for protection, and Perry was killed by the shot. There was no argument for the defense and the case was settled. The officer was cleared to return to work after recovering from injuries.

However, guns are not the only “weapons’ an officer has. Patrol cars often have helped police get a suspect into custody. A patrol car can often be used to ram the vehicle of a fleeing suspect. When high speed chases occur, officer will try to end the chase as soon as possible. If ramming a car is required to make it stop, then it must be done to protect innocent lives. Studies show that seven out of ten pursuits end in an accident. Also, one out of five end in death (Alpert and Fridell, 99). Police departments have pursuit policies that determine which actions to take. The greater the possible risk, the higher the need to end the pursuit.

For example if a high-speed chase is heading toward a congested area, then the police need to prevent a possible innocent person from becoming a victim. These means of prevention must be done with “due regard” to the lives and property of those not involved (Alpert and Fridell, 134 ). In some cases the fleeing vehicle was rammed and unfortunately the driver was killed. The ending is sad but if it saved the lives of innocent people, then it was worth it.

Several factors are involved when deciding the fate of a pursuit. Among these are the severity of the crime, the speeds of the driver, and the threat to innocent people. Officers also cover the matter of pursuits while at the academy. Departments will take their patrolmen to a training site and show their officers the proper ways to handle the car. When driving at speeds of up to 100 mph, a slight mistake could cost you your life. Average citizens don’t realize this when they are fleeing from the police.

Where does an officer draw the line between medium force and deadly force? That question has no definite answer because each situation is different. To understand how an officer decides how to handle each situation, one must see first hand what an officer goes through. The biggest factor is the safety of the officer. Police officers have to enforce the laws of our country. However, the legal system in our country is giving all the rights to the criminals. For example, why is it procedure for an officer to take leave after a shooting? Mounted cameras on the dashboards of police cars have been the biggest asset in the defense of police.

In court the jury is able to see a video and make a decision on the use of force. The video could possibly show the suspect swinging at an officer, or cooperating with the officer. Before the cameras the court cases basically consisted of “he said, she said” evidence. Without proof either side was fighting an uphill battle. The toughest cases were the ones where officers were accused of excessive force.

As a law abiding citizen of this country, I feel it is completely justified for police to use force when required. Police have the toughest job in the country. As enforcers of the law, officers should be able to strike fear in criminals. By doing this, it could help prevent crime from happening again. Instead of so much concern for the rights of criminals, how about the officer who risks his life daily? The problem today is that criminals are pampered while in jail.

As a child, I learned my lesson by getting a good, old-fashioned butt whipping when I misbehaved. Criminals need the same thing in order for lessons to be learned. Coercive authority is a helpful tool for police officers. Sometimes the result could be death, but the laws of this great nation must be enforced. Police officer take a vow to “serve and protect” the public. Well, one way they can effectively serve is to eliminate threats to themselves and society. By eliminating the threat, the public will regain confidence and the world will be a better place.

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Media Bias: Police Use of Force Portrayal. (2023, Mar 21). Retrieved from

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