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Do Crime Dramas Promote Police Violence?

March 31st, 2014 at 7:00 am

crime shows, Criminal Defense Attorney, Illinois criminal defense attorney, Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosle, promote violence, television violence, criminal justice, Chicago Police Department, Chicago PD, police violence, crime dramasThere is no shortage of crime dramas on television today. On almost any day, at almost any hour, you are practically guaranteed to find such a show being aired on at least one network. Most of these shoes involve any variety of law enforcement officers solving a crime and apprehending a suspect before the hour is up. And in many instances, the officers depicted use whatever means necessary to catch the perpetrator to or get a confession. The overarching theme suggested is that police violence, even when extreme, is an acceptable way to battle crime.

Recently, an interesting article explored this idea in depth as it specifically related to a particular crime show, “Chicago PD.” While not every idea posed by the article is mentioned here, a handful of topics the article discussed are especially relevant to criminal defense and criminal defendants in the Chicago area.

Shifts in Public Opinion

The popularity of such crime dramas seems to indicate that the public at large is accepting of police abuse. Social events in past decades have perpetuated the threat of crime to the forefront of  an individual’s mind across the nation. As a result, the media responded by promoting crime dramas that feature severely predatory criminals against noble police officers. The reality is that these shows provide much of the public’s knowledge about crime and criminal justice. Not only do the shows often fail to depict an accurate picture of the reality of criminality, but they also serve to shield the police from having their actions inspected and held accountable by the public in real life.

The Real Chicago PD

No matter how virtuous police characters in crime dramas are portrayed, the reality is that in the last 14 years, there have been 102 criminal convictions of Chicago police officers. While this number may seem staggering, it represents only a small fraction of those incidents that were investigated where charges were filed and pursued. Between 2002 and 2004, not even two percent of complaints against the police for excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, and false arrests against civilians led to any type of legal action.

It is well known that in the 1970s and 1990s, officers of the Chicago Police Department regularly used torture tactics on suspects to elicit confessions, tactics that their authority figures knew about and ignored. Since the news broke in 1990, there have been attempts made to give victims justice, but this was not achieved in all cases. Many blame the systematic torture and later cover-up by a “Code of Silence” that seems to be ingrained into the department as a whole, which allows officers to behave in any way they wish without threat of being sanctioned. While the show of the same name denies attempting to reflect violence as it exists in Chicago or how the Chicago PD deals with it, the problem lies in the fact that many viewers may see the show as doing just that.

Viewer’s Perception of Criminal Justice

According to the article, a study revealed that those who regularly watch crime dramas are overall more likely to fear crime. This corresponds to a perception of police effectiveness and a tendency to cause a desire for punishment in sentencing against criminal perpetrators. The logic is that the punitive sanctions will reduce the number of offenders of certain crimes, which also reduces the fear of crime in general. In short, the research suggests that even if the public realizes that media is not reality, it still works to shape its worldview.

Crime dramas mostly encourage the idea that crime is an individual choice without recognizing that in reality, the majority of crime stems from social, structural, and economic factors that influence people into situations in which crimes occur. But instead, the public at large believes that evil people are the root of all crime, as evidenced by the current system of mass incarceration that reflects the idea of harsh penalties when it comes to imposing punishment on those convicted of a crime. Crime dramas act to validate the notion that the only solution to crime is to allow the police to have more power, which is neither realistic nor desirable in society today, and has the capability of leading to serious civil rights violations.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Many social topics are at play here, and history has proven that social opinion and thinking is an ever changing notion that evolves over time. However, regardless of societal views, there are laws and protections afforded to criminal defendants and suspects of a police investigation. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights is imperative. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation. Our offices are located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and we handle cases in Cook County.

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