This paper is set out to attempt to show the importance of the media in law enforcement and how this has played out over the years. The media is a now a crucial component of law enforcement. Law enforcement began using the media to improve efficacy years ago, and this has greatly developed over the recent years. This research will further show how social media is being increasingly used by law enforcement to influence the attitude of the society towards the law enforcers, assist law enforcement activities, and to make the public more aware of the role of law enforcement. On the other hand, the media is also the main reason behind the constant criticism of the law enforcement. This has resulted in the improvement of accountability and performance of these agencies. This will be arrived at by the use of historical data, previous research into this area and current media reports linking the media and law enforcement.
Keywords: law enforcement, media, social media, justice
Media Use and Influence on Law Enforcement
Law enforcement is considered as a hard and risky profession since the enforcers endanger their lives to the criminals and the whole society. Making the public adhere to the laid laws is not an easy task particularly when imposing new laws or implementing strict criminal regulations. Officers with such duties always ensure that they maintain private profiles away from the public scrutiny so as to protect their families and themselves from villains. While the media, and particularly the internet platforms, has come to be of great aid in administering the regulations to the public, it has also increased the risks of these officers livelihoods. On one hand, the professional are using the media platforms to aid in public safety missions that prevents and investigates the crimes. Suffice it to say that the media is a tool that is used to influence the attitude of the society towards the law enforcers, assist law enforcement activities, and to make the public more aware of the role of law enforcement (Woody, 2012). The media can be used in law enforcement and is also a powerful tool used to influence the attitude of the public towards law enforcement.
Use of the media is common to advocate for practices that prevents criminal activities within a community or even for investigation into society crimes. The earliest forms of media communication were used by the law enforcement to make the public aware of wanted criminals. In the 1800s, law enforcement agencies used posters across towns to inform citizens of changes that were made to the laws of the region and country. In essence, the media was used to make citizens law abiding and law enforcement more effective. Over the years, the use of posters continuously shifted and advanced to the use of the radio, TV and currently the internet is turning out to be a crucial communication tool for the law enforcement agencies.
The internet has made it practically acceptable to use the social media platforms as quick, easier, and effective ways of carrying out mass education on public policies as well in gathering of evidence. All law enforcement agencies have websites that have updated laws, policy changes, clarifications and all important communication. It is important to note that some agencies are making use of the internet and social media in particular to foster direct and closer communication between members of the law enforcement agencies and the public. Finally, law enforcement is about to solve one of the many gripes that has impeded their efficacy over the past years. Citizens can now be actively involved in law enforcement (Walters, 2012).
Criminal acts are common distressing events in the society and the victims turn to, among others, the law enforcers, for comfort (Susskind, 2013). These interactions puts the officers at the hook of being secondary traumatized from such interactions particularly when the attitude of the community towards them has been damaged. The media is usually known for interfering with the officers lives on some occasions yet they disregard the well-being of these enforcers. However, it has been argued that such media attacks on the police force often acts as a means of keeping law enforcement in check. Law enforcement agencies have always been accused of overstepping their authority and using their powers wrongly. The media has now turned out to be the overseers of the law enforcement agencies that were often considered as untouchable. Law enforcement agencies are now fast to act to any type of issue that is raised on the media. Over the past year, quite a number of police officers have resigned and been investigated after the media showed instances where they abused their authority. Thus, the media can be labeled as an overseer of the law enforcement (Morales, 2012).
Modern media technologies such as social media are being used increasingly to facilitate the crimes investigation and prevention within a given society. The use of the media for public missions has been in use over the years and the advent of the social media only catapulted the usage to the high frequency currently and yet, is expected to be on the rise in the future. According to the Solutions, (2014) over 80% of professional law enforcers use the social media as an active tool in their ongoing investigations though only a number of agencies have offered training or policies to formally aid the usage and application of the media platforms in law enforcement. The survey by the Lexis Nexis show that over third of the respondent law enforcers believe the media monitoring process is a useful platform to anticipate crimes and even more of them believe that it can help in solving cases faster when employed in investigation (Solutions, 2014). The common media platforms for active law enforcement operations are Facebook, which is the most popular in use with 83% of the respondents, followed by YouTube at 67% and then Twitter at 50 % among others.
The media platforms are associated with the crime prevention, case closures as well as facilitating dialogue of the law enforcers with the public. Officers are able to use concurrent active social media material evidence to expect crowd rallies and demonstrations which aids them in preparing adequately in advance and thus they are able to successfully maintain peace (Solutions, 2014). Various real-world cases that were quickly and effectively determined due to use of the media platforms have been highlighted by the report. They include mitigation of threats on students, stoppage of an active shooter, tracking a gang’s behavior among others. Social networks as well as instant messaging are routine platforms used to convey info regarding to encounters of the public and the law enforcers (Woody, 2012). When used to positively, this can be a basis of enhanced law enforcement.
The mass media is also an important tool in the updating the public on suspected criminals and crime prone situations. The media have been used to air out criminal suspects, their identification details, their cars, their residential areas and also their areas of operations. By making such information public through the media, the law enforcers keeps the public on the lookout for these law breakers and thus they are able to report any suspicious activities happening within an area. The media is not only used to disseminate crime proceedings to the public when a crime is being investigated, but it is also a source of crime tips which can be solicited to help solve a crime.
The media platforms are used as a discussion stand on public emergencies, enhancement of police-citizen relations, and to advise on traffic use to enforce underlying rules. The key role that the mass media plays is to portray and describe all traits of felonious behavior and criminal activities (Marsh & Melville, 2014).
Law enforcement using the social media which aids in criminal investigation remains to be quite essential in prevention of criminal activities as well as in identification of evidence and suspects of criminal activities. The establishment and implementation of official guidelines and procedural policies within law enforcement organizations can lead to an amalgamated, reliable method of social media usage (Trottier 2015). Since the officers shall become further acquainted and contented to use it, they can remain identifying strong and inclusive means of combining developing social media platforms into their daily practices. This shall eventually yield extra added achievements in interjecting criminal activities, solving cases and ultimately investigating and executing criminals.
There has been the notion that the distributing of media pieces, especially on social media, has negative effects to the people concerned – particularly law enforcement. Quantitative research that was done by Burns and the selected team of 14 police investigators gave the result of child exploitation that had the taking place in the state (Morales, 2012). The undertaking was achieved by the use of the critical incident technique where it involves only the categorization of the authors or the people that are interviewed without the need to do calculation of outcome variables. In the study, there was the conclusion that the media has the effects to traumatic components; these are the video clips and the audio clips and should be done away with the help of the law enforcement investigators who are available. The law enforcement investigators were examined and an overview that they should take control in child pornography come up with. Although some studies highlighted that the type of work had several effects on the investigators. The components of burnout and STS were found to have the relation with the total time that is required in the distribution of the media (Morales, 2012).
The reports from the various studies revealed that there was an increment in the distrust between the investigators and the individuals due to the developed lower levels of the efficiency in the professionalism. The findings that were done to the employees were not of the positive impacts. Although most of the employees have the courage to mention that they were comfortable in the places they were working. Furthermore, they added that they would retain their places of work due to the better conditions that are available. The general study shows that even under the poor conditions that lead to stress in working places, the forensic examiners have the courage to remain satisfied with the jobs they are undertaking. Most of them give the reason that mostly they try to do something that will distract their attention in the observed disadvantages (Woody, 2012).
The mechanisms that are the outcomes of the grievances are found that they only affect the examiners in the industry. It was quoted that the respondents had the highest levels of the STS than all the others. The pride of sense was taken as one of the most fundamental factor in the distributing of the media aspects. This importance is because of the convicting power that they will have over the perpetrators (Waters 2012).
The traumatic incidences that are occurring through the media distribution not only affect the victims of the media, but also affect the indirectly exposed to the same traumatic event. One can contract the traumatic stress only after they are in the act of knowing and doing the act of empathizing with a certain person who had once undergone the traumatic stress. The secondary traumatic stress can slowly grow which will have the leading of the post-traumatic stress disorder.
The disorder is said to be caused by the contraction of the first hand traumatic stress. This disorder is caused by the event where the individual experiences a traumatic event which leads to easy irritability (Woody, 2012). Apart from the secondary trauma stress, there is the experienced result of the same called the vicarious traumatization. Vicarious trauma have a major effect where the individuals that is affected will have the changed believes about the world and the overall thinking of how activities are carried out (Morales, 2012). Most of the effects of the two types of trauma have damaging effects where there should be the advanced use of literature in an order to give the summed damages that are caused. Burnouts may be experienced in the event of secondary traumatic stress where the individual will have the difficulty in the view of how activities are carried out. Burnout is that state where there is the result that is from the fact that an individual has experienced stress for a long period of time. The sense of the accomplishment of tasks is seen to have dropped when an individual have the feeling that their jobs are no longer having a difference in their living and the day to day activities, they loss the value of it at a large aspect (Susskind, 2013).
Waters, (2012) explains that in the case of the workers that are found in the labs dealing with the forensic values, there was the finding that they had been subjected to the traumatic stress because they had the most of the media distribution factors which lead to them being exposed to the saddening scenes. Due to the stress illumination, there will be the effects also in the offices and the general organization. It gives the reduced working performance to the individuals that have them and the activities that they do including their emotional decreases.
As a real parameter, in any of the organizations, there should be the aspect of the high satisfaction levels where the individuals should have that one reason to stay in the same employment. The support that is needed which is always the social support can be gained by the use of the correct rapport in an organization. It can be in terms of the instrumental support or the emotional support that should be gained (Marsh & Melville 2014). The emotional part comes with the aspect of having sympathy and a little bit of the caring aspect in an individual. The instrumental part comes up when there is the added assistance of several advices on how to do activities in the organization. The support has been seen as a result of the contained burnout during the trauma period.
It is evident that an individual will be freer when he or she is shown the support by several individuals that they need. The impact of the psychological distress is also reduced where there will be relief in the individual after a short period of time where he or she will suffer. In order to give the outcomes of the support based activities, it is of relevance that the most individuals who have the required support will be aided by the fact that they won’t have much suffering. As Susskind (2013) points out that a comparison to the others with the limited care or support shows that there is a noticeable difference. There have been the direct and indirect effects of the support to be offered. The buffer of the support gives the evidence that there is the increased need in the introduction of the support scheme to all the individuals that have the traumatic disorders.
In the mitigation of the effects, there are the propagated factors that the direct effects of the social support have the action to the strain of its effects in the independent ways that are reviewed. In the receiving of the social support, there should be the social supervisor who will have the ability to show the direction (Trottier, 2015). The directions include how the individual should have his or her own view on the existing matters. This ability will have the impact in the help where the individual will be given the trauma free mind. There will always be a way where the findings of the literature in regard to the topic of study will have the inconsistency variance. The data will not always be correct due to the several methods of the collection. Some of the individuals give the argument that the facilities that are provide by the support staff are not sufficient in the curbing of the traumatization among the individuals. It is important to note that although the media might have some negative effects on the performance of law enforcement, the officers are being continually taught how to make use of all the positive aspects of the media while only taking the positives out of the constant criticism that they are bound to come across on the media.
To conclude, the media is a very important tool in law enforcement. The media is used by law enforcement to influence the attitude of the society towards the law enforcers, assist law enforcement activities, and to make the public more aware of the role of law enforcement. Law enforcement uses the media to communicate with the members of the public effectively, improve relations between the two parties, and currently the society is getting an opportunity to actively assist law enforcement through social media. Social media has made communication between citizens and members of the public faster and more personalized as opposed to traditional forms of media (Walters, 2012). However, the media is not without its own gripes. In recent years, the media is becoming more geared towards exposing only the negative aspects of law enforcements. This includes cases such as the purported unjust killing of black citizens by white members of the police force, which has led to various instances of civil unrest. Regardless, the perks of the media for law enforcement certainly outweigh the few minor gripes. In essence, the media keeps the law enforcement in check and continuously pushes for the improvement of the services provided by law enforcement agencies.
Marsh, I., & Melville, G. (2014). Crime, justice and the media. Routledge.
Morales, J. (2012). Someone Who Understands: The Effect of Support on Law Enforcement Officers Exposed to Disturbing Media.
Solutions, L. N. R. (2014). Social Media Use in Law Enforcement: Crime prevention and investigative activities continue to drive usage. Lexis Nexis.
Susskind, J. (2013). Law Enforcement and Social Media: Fighting Crime, One Tweet at a Time. Independent Voter Network (IVN).
Trottier, D. (2015). Open source intelligence, social media and law enforcement: Visions, constraints and critiques. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4-5), 530-547.
Waters, G. (2012). Social media and law enforcement. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 81(11), 1-5.
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