(2006), "Maintaining legitimacy using external communication strategies: an analysis of police-media relations", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 29 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/pijpsm.2006.18129aaf.002Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Maintaining legitimacy using external communication strategies: an analysis of police-media relations
S. Chermak and A. WeissJournal of Criminal JusticeVol. 332005pp. 501-12
Chermak and Weiss report the findings from a multivariate factor analysis examining the relationship between police organizations and media in their jurisdictions (specifically, newspaper and television media). The authors were seeking to understand the symbiotic relationship of the two organizations. Getting the most from this relationship has been a matter of concern for both parties involved. Police administrators have realized the power of the media and the media has realized what and ally the police departments in their coverage area can be. Past research has typically focused on police efforts to manage the media coverage of their departments, however, the symbiotic nature of the two relationships has not been addressed in detail.
For the purposes of this study, the authors mailed surveys to public information officers in 239 law enforcement agencies in cities with populations over 100,000, and to managers and reporters in newspaper and television offices in the same Metropolitan area as the surveyed departments. The results of the study are based on responses from 203 police agencies and 312 media organizations.
The authors find the public information officers’ evaluation of the relationship their department has with the media is related to two factors that were derived from a factor analysis: the first included items that “acknowledged the role of the media in shaping public opinion and the need for the department to take advantage of this opportunity” and the second “included items emphasizing the need to propagandize certain positive and innovative programs of the department” (Chermak and Weiss, 2005, p. 508).
The analysis also discovered that the media’s evaluation of the quality of their relationship with the police was affected by several factors, such as law enforcement officers providing information quickly, the ability of law enforcement to provide information in which the public was interested, the respondent’s view of law enforcement and the accessibility of the top police administrator. Also of importance in predicting the media’s evaluation was the position of the respondent. Newspaper and television reporters and television managers were more likely to report a positive relationship with police than were newspaper managers. The authors anticipated this finding, stating that managers are more likely to encounter the complaints of the reporters and to not actually interact with the police as much as a reporter might.
The authors conclude with a brief discussion of the importance of the police in maintaining a positive relationship with the media. This relationship is “the primary way that police organizations communicate with external constituencies” and that losing this relationship may be tantamount to risking a legitimacy crisis (Chermak and Weiss, 2005, p. 510).