Term Paper: Metropolitan Police Departments Can Use

Pages: 10 (2586 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] "You just have to focus on the positives, although it won't happen overnight," he says. "It's just a matter of repetition." ({Peale)

Like L.A., Cincinnati has resorted to traditional marketing efforts to improve its image. For example, the city has published a brochure with a photo of Mayor Charlie Luken standing next to Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, an African-American (Peale). The Cincinnati police department has mirrored similar approaches.

Community oriented policing is probably the best example of how police department are using traditional marketing methods to improve public relations. Community oriented policing does not involve sophisticated programs, specially trained officers or federal grants.

Instead, it simply involves a friendly attitude, frame of mind and an individual commitment to address all quality of life issues surrounding a community, rather than just violations of the law.

Many citizens say that community oriented policing is reminiscent of the old days, when individual officers worked with members of the community they serve. Police officers actually form relationships with their communities, similar to those established years ago with Neighborhood Watch or crime prevention programs. Instead of being a threat and seen as a villain, police officers aim to be seen as an extension of the community, the neighborhood and citizens.

More and more metropolitan police departments are reexamining their images, as it has become clear that negative images of the police can be extremely damaging to their power and to the community as a whole.

In an era of community-oriented policing and other traditional marketing techniques, many police officers and city leaders are realizing that a negative image also has a negative impact on attracting the right kind of police officer. As long as a negative image remains, policing will draw the wrong kind of applicant, reward the wrong behavior, and fail to provide the kind of services that communities now demand.

In my opinion, traditional marketing efforts can be very effective in combating the increasing negative image of policing. By doing this, police forces are also tackling problems of excessive force, corruption, and other forms of misconduct. In addition, they are showing that the police departments will no longer tolerate brutality, enforce the code of silence, or punish those who challenge the police force.

Recommendations for Improving Police PR

The public image of the police involves many aspects, grouped under three general categories: overall image, perceptions of police outcomes, and perceptions of police processes.

The public image of the police is complex, making generalizations and specific research difficult. There is no quick fix for the image of the police department in general. Police agencies in different areas must carefully research their districts and carefully select marketing approaches that are geared to their particular areas.

According to recent research, there are three major ways in which the public forms negative impressions of police: the direct experiences of the public with the police, how the police are presented to the public through the press and entertainment media, and the standards and expectations the public holds for the police. If the police themselves make an effort to raise public expectations and standards, this would eventually affect the public's assessment of their performance.

Recommendations fro Improving Public Relations in Metropolitan Police Departments:

Establish a partnership with the media to increase their knowledge about the negative effects of poor police image on communities.

Identify one person in each department to act as a coordinator for media relations and public awareness issues regarding the police department.

Enforce laws against corruption, police brutality and other policing crimes.

Incorporate public service announcements and feature stories in print and television documentaries, develop Web sites, and develop realistic advertisements that promote community-oriented policing.

Conduct media public opinion polls to include all classes, ages, races, religions, and groups of people to promote public awareness of community-oriented policing.

Provide educational seminar and advanced training to ensure that police officers are well-trained to deal with the media. Establish consistent policy on how these officers should do this.


Studies show that Americans want police officers who are polite and friendly, and who treat them well. According to Huang and Vaughn (1996), the majority of American citizens have positive attitudes regarding the friendliness of the police. However, like other elements of police image, the public is not uniform in its assessment, since those respondents who were younger, unmarried, male, and black expressed the least favorable opinions.

Huang and Vaughn's (1996) thorough review of the research concluded: "research suggests that police temperament, politeness, and deportment are important contributors in citizen opinions of police friendliness" (p. 39) For example, Stone and Pettigrew (2000) revealed in their study of police stop-and-frisk practices in England that negative feelings from the stops resulted when officers were "patronizing, arrogant, aggressive or intimidating" (p. iv).

Therefore, police departments need to employ skilled officers, fluent in English and communication skills, to supply the media with a more positive image. In addition, the entire police force must work toward establishing this image in their communities, by presenting the public with a friendly, caring face.


Eck, John E., and William Spelman. "A Problem-Oriented Approach to Police Service Delivery." Police and Policing: Contemporary Issues, ed. Dennis Jay Kenney. New York: Praeger. 1989.

Goldstein, Herman. "Improving Policing: A Problem-Oriented Approach." Crime and Delinquency, 1979.

Huang, W.S. Wilson and Michael S. Vaughn. "Support and Confidence: Public Attitudes Toward the Police." Sage, 1996.

Kansas City Police Department. Response Time Analysis: Volume II, Part I-- Crime Analysis. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1989.

Kelling, George L., Antony Pate, Duane Dieckman, and Charles E. Brown. The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment: A Technical Report. Washington, D.C.: Police Foundation. 1974.

National Institute of Justice/National Criminal Justice Reference Service,

Washington, D.C: http://www.unojust.org/

Peale, Cliff. City image needs polishing. The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 8, 2002.

Poole, Oliver. LA police enlist action dolls to improve image. Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2002.

Rupf, Warren. Office of the Sheriff Contra Costa County. Retrieved Dec. 3 at http://www.cocosheriff.org

S. Walker, G.P. Alpert, & D.J. Kenney. Early Warning Systems: Responding to the Problem Police Officer. National Institute of Justice, Research in Brief, 2001. Available at www.ncjrs.org

Stone, S. And N. Pettigrew. The Views of the Public on Stops and Searches. Police Research Series Paper 129, London: Home Office, 2000.

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