2 Law Text Culture 32 (1995)
Damage Control: Media Representation and Responses to Police Deviance

handle is hein.journals/lwtexcu2 and id is 34 raw text is: DAMAGE CONTROL:
MEDIA REPRESENTATION AND
RESPONSES TO POLICE DEVIANCE
Janet Chan*
ABSTRACT
his paper examines the processes and outcomes of the negotiation
of public discourse between the police and the media when police
organisations are called to account in public scandals. Using the
1992 television documentary Cop It Sweet as a case study, the paper
describes the problems of police/Aborigines relations exposed in the film,
the reaction within the police hierarchy, the attempt at damage control and
the subsequent repair work carried out in terms of improving police/minority
relations. The role of the media as an agent of criminal justice reform and a
mechanism for demanding police accountability is discussed in this context.
It will be argued that scandals force police organisations to provide a credible
account that deviance is under control. The consequences of scandals depend
on the nature of the police organisation and its commitment to reform. Public
discourse in relation to police deviance may provide an opportunity for
police reformers to further their reform agenda, but in an organisation less
committed to change, there is a danger that scapegoating, band-aid repair
work and cosmetic changes may substitute for meaningful reform. The irony
of police reform is that commitment to openness and accountability does not
necessarily lead to a positive police image, but continual damage-control
work by upper management in relation to scandals may lead to further
cynicism and a hardening of the'street cop' culture.
INTRODUCTION: MEDIA AND POLICING
The criminological literature has long documented the role of the media
as a generator or amplifier of 'moral panics' regarding crime and deviance
(e.g. Cohen 1972; Hall et al 1978). This literature highlights the processes
engaged in by the media in the social construction of deviance. In general,
research in this tradition has focused on what is conventionally known as
.street crimes' or violent crimes (see, for example, Fishman 1978;

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