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How Powerful is the Media in Influencing Police Work?

Our knowledge of crime and media is largely informed by the media, however unjust and exaggerated it may be. This may lead to apparent crime waves, moral panics and unrealistic fear of crime such as the elderly increasingly being bashed in their own homes more than usual. At times, the media defines crime and the nature of police work, perhaps as a response; the police feel the need to adjust their methods and targets accordingly.

In the political arena, a moral panic on crimes such as elderly bashings or home invasions may lead to an increase and political bartering of increased sentences with a tough-on-order initiative. This in turn may extend the police powers, amplifying the deviancy on particular social groups of society such as young people being labelled deviant and experiencing a crackdown on their behaviour whether or not their intentions are malicious or those heavily addicted to drugs.

Cardinal George Pell attends The Melbourne Magistrate's Court to face historical child abuse charges whilst hordes of media capture it all
Cardinal George Pell attends court to face historical child abuse charges

The media can also impact investigations by pre-releasing sensitive information, thereby hindering the police in their work. On May 1, 2006 Simon Rochford was found to have suicided after the media released his name as the prime-suspect in an infamous case involving a murdered jewellery store owner and the false conviction of Andrew Mallard. Although police believed they had enough forensic evidence to ascertain a conviction, they were unable to continue the investigation as a result.

On a positive note, the media have the ability to assist and support ongoing investigations and appeals for information, reaching a massive portion of society which would otherwise be difficult, perhaps almost impossible, for the police alone to reach out to. A vast amount of operations and crackdowns have resulted in a successful quantity of arrests and key information with the appeal to the public for help in events such as ‘dob in a drug dealer’ or ‘dob in a bikie’ In addition, the media are able to publicise footage from both the police and their own as well as assisting in their own search and surveillance operations. This at times may take the leg work out of police work, as they appear to lack resources.

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