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Media Coverage of Police Misconduct and Attitudes Toward Police

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: 2006 Pages: 261-281
Steven Chermak; Edmund McGarrell; Jeff Gruenewald
Date Published
21 pages
This study explored how news coverage of a celebrated police misconduct trial in Indianapolis impacted citizen attitudes toward the police.
Results indicated that citizens who read newspaper accounts of a police misconduct trial in Indianapolis were not significantly more likely to have negative attitudes about the police, police services, or about the harassment of citizens by the police. However, newspaper coverage of the trial did affect citizens’ attitudes concerning the guilt of the officers involved in the trial: the more a citizen read the newspaper, the more likely he or she was to believe the officers were guilty. Other findings indicated that citizen concern about neighborhood crime was an important predictor of attitudes toward the police and that the influence of race on citizens’ perceptions of police was more pronounced after the media coverage of the case. Telephone surveys were administered to 222 Indianapolis citizens living in 3 areas before the trial began and to 145 citizens in the same areas after the trial was over. Surveys focused on citizen attitudes toward the police and police services, media consumption, citizen demographics, citizen perceptions of their neighborhood, and citizen contact with police. Statistical data analysis involved the use of linear regression equations. Future research should focus not only on the impact of high profile cases involving the police, but should also explore how these cases are covered by the media. Tables, notes, references


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