Criminal investigation and the media

Authored by: Rob C. Mawby

Handbook of Criminal Investigation

Print publication date:  May  2007
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9781843921882
eBook ISBN: 9780203118177
Adobe ISBN: 9781136308246

10.4324/9780203118177.ch6

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Abstract

The relationship between crime and the media is a much debated subject and a diverse area of study that encompasses a variety of research approaches. These have considered, inter alia, media representations, contents and effects and have focused on offenders, victims and institutions (Leishman and Mason 2003; Reiner 2002, 2003; Jewkes 2004). Drawing on the rich body of literature and research, this chapter examines three distinct, but related, aspects of criminal investigation and the media. The first part of the chapter charts the longstanding media fascination with criminal investigation and explores historical and contemporary representations of investigators and the investigation function. In doing so, it considers the place of criminal investigation in the construction of the police image and the symbolic importance that is attached to the police crime-fighting role. Secondly, acknowledging that the police have always engaged to varying degrees with the news and entertainment media, the chapter examines the extent to which the British police have developed the practice of overt ‘image work’. 1 It considers how this intersects with the processes of crime investigation through a discussion of the ‘newsworthiness’ of crime and its investigation. Thirdly, because media developments make the investigation of serious crime a particularly visible, sometimes exposed, policing function, the chapter focuses on police–media relations during such investigations. The chapter concludes that, in our media-dominated society, the processes of criminal investigation have become increasingly public and this has the potential both to idealize and to demystify the police as effective crime fighters.

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