Policing the Media: Street Cops and Public Perceptions of Law Enforcement

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David D. Perlmutter

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    “… society closes its doors, without pity, on two classes of men, those who attack it and those who guard it.”

    —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

    Copyright

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    Foreword

    Ethnographers, scholars, and lay folk all see the world through a lens inflected by experience. Understanding the role and the relationship of the ethnographer to her or his subject provides data that are crucial for any ethnographic study. In its analysis of the way real people—cops—make sense of their visual symbolic environment in everyday life, Policing the Media provides an ethnography of police work that will be valuable for students, practitioners, and scholars in both criminology and communications.

    I first became acquainted with David through letters of recommendation forwarded with his application to the doctoral program at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, where I had developed a curriculum in visual communication. Policing the Media got its start in my documentary photography class there. I routinely assigned each student the task of launching and (hopefully) completing a photographic documentary during a 10-week term. Considering my emphasis on thorough research and significant observation, the short time frame made for a difficult undertaking. I often met informally with students for an additional 10-week session so they could complete their projects. For his project, David chose to photograph the St. Louis Park Police. Rather than continuing for an extra 10 weeks, David pursued his subject for several years. He understood the ethnographic foundation upon which my documentary course was built, and he dedicated himself to honing his skills as an ethnographer in the research methods seminar I taught. He made it clear from the beginning that the limitations imposed by a 10-week term meant little to him, given his larger pre-defined goals.

    David has produced a book that employs visual research methods to address important issues in visual communication. Instead of uncritically using pictures as interview prompts and exhibiting them as uncontested evidence, Policing the Media problematizes the role of the images used. But this is only one of David's accomplishments. In addition to his reflexive and thoughtful use of photographs, he takes the community as context and offers a concrete illustration of the interface between mass-mediated images and everyday life. He posits the relationship between popular representations of cops, public expectations of police behavior and policing activities, and officers' own presentation of self, on duty and off. Policing the Media presents ethnographic data that lead convincingly to the conclusion that representations do matter, and that media makers play an important role in shaping public consciousness through their manipulation of the symbolic environment.

    Throughout my teaching career, I have tried to inculcate in my students an appreciation for the complexity of the photographer's endeavor and the responsibilities photographers have in representing the lives of others. David's work reflects these concerns. In addition, this volume embodies a blend of theory and practice and an interdisciplinary vision that is essential in our attempts to understanding others. I am honored to have been invited to introduce this volume, and I believe that the rich research tradition David inherits and advances will surely blossom as its descendants continue to enlarge its reach.

    DonaSchwartzUniversity of Minnesota

    Preface

    This book is concerned with (a) the interplay of mass media representations of law enforcement and crime and the work and beliefs of real-life police officers and (b) to what extent, how, and why real cops are in themselves mediators, that is, performers to the public and to themselves. The two questions are related because, as I will argue here, street cops perceive that the mass-mediated cop is in a sense a rival—one that has far greater influence on how we the citizenry define and appreciate police work. The focus of the book, then, is on the “social world” of media's impact, what Griswold (1994) defines as “the context in which culture is created and experienced” (p. xiv). The venue for the investigation was an ethnography I conducted from the winter of 1992 to the summer of 1995 of the St. Louis Park (SLP), Minnesota, police department. SLP is a border suburb of Minneapolis. In a relatively low-crime state—the legendary “Minnesota nice,” as I can testify, does exist—the city's crime rate was about average. Its social geography is mixed: It has an industrial section, highways, family neighborhoods, and many small businesses. Its population during the day hits about 100,000 and at night falls to about half that number. In demographic makeup, SLP is predominantly white (90%) but with growing African American and immigrant populations; it also has the largest concentration of Jewish residents of any city in the state. In addition, there are several large senior living centers and nursing homes. Class distinctions are noticeable but in typical Midwest fashion not blatant, with areas ranging from wealthy neighborhoods with large, expensive family homes to moderate-income dwellings to poor sections (by suburban Minnesota standards) with low-income apartment buildings.

    The SLP Police Department (SLP-PD) itself was small, comprising no more than 50 regular officers; a dozen sergeants, detectives, and lieutenants; one captain and one chief; and about 20 other staff, including dispatchers. All were and are based at a single station located only about 4 blocks from the apartment building in which I lived during that period. Only 4 to 6 regular officers patrolled the entire city at any one time (the official and thus unused term is routine preventive patrol). When my ethnography began, 2 officers were female; 2 more women were hired during my study. About 10 officers served for me as fully involved informants, those with whom I rode along most often. The PD administration knew of my study, approved it, and never put any restrictions on it save a tacit agreement that I would try (a) not to get killed and (b) not to obstruct officers in their duties.

    Unusual for academic participant observation of cops (a term I use here as they do, without negative connotation), this study was partly a visual ethnography. With single-lens reflex camera in hand, I rode with cops, observed, listened to, talked with, and sometimes took black-and-white (or, more rarely, color) pictures of them. Often I watched silently, mostly when cops were interacting with the public. Other times, in long, long hours alone with a single officer in the squad car, I conversed. About halfway through the study, I joined their ranks—in a very restricted sense—by becoming a reserve police officer. I then rode along in uniform (powder-blue shirt rather than the cops' dark blue) but without a gun. Ironically, this change in status actually reduced opportunities for picture taking, as I became marginally more involved in assisting with police duties.

    Because I first began the ethnography not as a reserve police officer but as a citizen and I carried a camera and took notes, it was instantly evident to the natives—the officers—that I was in some way studying them. Gary Allan Fine (1980) has suggested that ethnographers can adopt various levels of openness about their role: Deep Cover, Shallow Cover, and Explicit Cover. Deep cover is the undercover ethnography in which the researcher affects to be a natural participant in the environment and community. In explicit cover, the researcher reveals her or his role, intentions, and exactly how she or he plans to use the data. In shallow cover, a “middle ground,” the researcher reveals general goals—for example, “writing about what you do”—but does not outline details of interests or intentions.

    This last category describes my status with the police. I told them truthfully (both voluntarily and when asked), “Well, I'm interested in your work, what cops do on the street, talking about it and showing it.” I used the material and photos gathered in the study for teaching and on occasion invited officers, department administrators, and other law enforcement personnel to address my classes. They were also aware that the work would be published someday in article or book form, although I assured them for the academic market, not the front page of the (despised) newspapers. I did not explicitly relate that I was particularly interested in their view of the interaction of mediated reality and their world. This was so often a manifest or latent topic of conversation with the officers that it seemed heavy-handed to emphasize its importance to me.

    As a mass communication researcher, however, I was already interested in learning about a paradox of the street cop's role in a mass-mediated society. On one hand, our para-experience with police and the legal system is vast. Cops are familiar figures from literature, film, and especially televised fiction, news, and so-called “reality” shows. Crime (and crime fighting) is probably the single most common genre in both dramatic and nonfictional television and film (Ericson, Baranek, & Chan, 1987, 1989, 1991; Katz, 1987; Reiner, 1992, chap. 2; Schlesinger & Tumber, 1994; Sparks, 1992). Vicariously, all of us have viewed via the TV set or the movie screen cops chasing crooks through city streets, chain-drinking coffee during a stakeout, deciphering clues at a crime scene, or grilling a “perp” at the station. The scenes, dialogue, and poses of police work are clichéd. Moreover, as several cultural researchers have noted, much television programming in general and cop shows in particular use styles of cinematography and narrative that obscure the line between “reality based” and “fictional” (Cavender & Bond-Maupin, 1993; Linton, 1992). NYPD Blue, for example, uses documentary codes of realism that mimic the codes of news.

    On the other hand, the world of the cop—the real cop—is secretive, a sort of guild, not open to easy dissection by the casual observer, especially through the limited personal experience most people have with police work. Our lived experience is generally minimal: For most of us, a speeding ticket or reporting a stolen stereo is the only authentic cop encounter. This was certainly my impression: I was a moderate viewer of news and fictional programming about law enforcement before I began my ethnography. Yet, a week into the study, a cop said to me, “This isn't like the crap they show on TV, is it?” Indeed, real-life law enforcement was not like what I saw on TV, and, in fact, it seemed not to lend itself to the bowdlerization that TV demands. Over 2 years, many illusions were shattered. For this reason, my own impressions as a member of the televisual audience of mass-mediated cops now encountering the real thing were and are part of the data for this study.

    Questions arise from this situation. How do these two worlds coexist and collide? How do the mediated cops affect the beliefs and behaviors of actual, living police officers? What do real cops think about their two-dimensional screen cousins? What do real cops think are the influences of mass media on their “customers” (the public and the criminals)? These are essentially questions about how people negotiate the relevance and meaning of mass media imagery, symbols, primes, and narratives in their daily lives (Fine, 1977; Gamson, Crocteau, Hoynes, & Sasson, 1992).

    Studying issues of mass media and society through an ethnography may seem inappropriate because field research necessarily examines limited communities. Yet, focusing on small audience groups, from Dr. Who fans to romance novel readers, has become an uncontroversial facet of media studies, whether by students of mass communication or others. Ethnography in general or participant observation in particular is one way to “get closer” to such audiences. Here, crucially, the audience studied (street cops) was also, indirectly, the subject of the mass media portrayals to which it responded. The added dimension of visual ethnography not only allowed the use of pictures as illustrations and tools of analysis but also prompted commentary and reaction by these subjects (see Schwartz, 1992). Finally, creating pictures of subjects that are already common in media portrayal, whether in prime-time dramas or cinema, can in itself be a reflective enterprise. The researcher begins to understand, not just by studying media texts but by creating them, the importance, power, and complexity of the codes, conventions, and clichés of the style, content, and connotations of those portrayals. As discussed later, sometimes when taking pictures I also felt weighed down by the dramatic and aesthetic standards of Hawaii Five-O, Adam 12, Homicide: Life on the Street, and World's Toughest Cops.

    This book, then, is a limited report; its claims may or may not validly extend to other types of police in other regions, with larger or smaller forces, or serving different kinds of communities. Nevertheless, many of the findings match, support, or complement those uncovered through previous ethnographies and by other methods such as content analysis or surveys. For this reason, I also include a summary of previous research about the televisual world of crime and law enforcement, what cops think about it, and its possible effects on the public and cop work.

    Yet simply reviewing the content of TV cop shows and then producing a checklist of divergences with the observed world of real cops is not in itself a satisfactory approach to the issues. Real cops do not refrain from attempting to mediate reality themselves. When they go on a call, they take into account public expectations. A textbook on policing sums up the situation as follows:

    Citizens have certain expectations about the police. These expectations are formed from a wide range of influences—for example, word of mouth, movies, promises of politicians, or “intuition.” If the police meet a citizen's expectations, the person is more likely to have a favorable image of the police. Problems arise when these expectations are based upon unrealistic criteria. (Radelet & Carter, 1994, p. 205)

    I add that cops believe that television is a major source of cop stereotypes, including many “unrealistic criteria” by which the public judges them and their work performance. Thus, although real cops distinguish between TV cops and themselves, they do not believe they live outside of a mass-mediated world. In addition, when in public they perform, not completely unlike the scripted and directed TV actor, in a way and style calculated to maximize audience impact.

    The role of mass media here is worthy of study. What influences of mediated reality do we find in the daily routine and extraordinary events of cop work? More so than most “normal” people, police officers face situations that present intensely (and dangerously) ambiguous signs and causes. To maintain some level of cognitive cohesion, they must construct a kind of “interpretative framework to order fragmented experience” (Stewert & Sullivan, 1982). The suggestion that is developed here is that one interpretative framework cops employ is media-centric: Cops feel that TV and movies are the standard to which other people hold them. Relatedly, mass communication researchers have spoken of a third-person effect: People believe that others are more prone to be negatively influenced by mass media texts than themselves (Cohen & Davis, 1991; Cohen, Mutz, Price, & Gunther, 1988; Davison, 1983; Gunther, 1991). The cops studied in the ethnography believed (or acted as if they believed) that the public—including criminals, victims, and the press—was affected by mass-mediated representations of cop work. They know also that those expectations often cannot be met by their own actions and words. In this they do not necessarily perceive personal failing but rather a diminishing of autonomy and power. When combined with stories of “the way it used to be,” when cops had greater freedom to prevent crime and enforce justice, the collision between mediated reality and street reality does cause noticeable effects on attitudes and behavior.

    The book itself tries to encompass both the record of research on the televisual portrayal of police (i.e., the content of mass media) and the results and implications of the ethnographic study (i.e., the content of the “street”). The former comprises a sine qua non for evaluating the latter. Although ethnography, as will be elaborated later, adds to other research methods, it does not eclipse or obviate the need for them.

    Accordingly, Chapter 1 deals with my experience of observing police officers and taking pictures of them. Such auto-observation is a useful entry to negotiating one's own understanding of the experience of ethnography. I describe how the process of making still photographs revealed something of the acculturation process of mass media; in turn, the cops' reactions to the picture taking and its products also served as examples of their general attitude toward mass media representations of their profession. Cops believe that people expect to see TV portrayals of police played out in real life, so they assumed that what I wanted was to find incidents in their work that displayed these norms and forms.

    Performance for the camera, in real life, is not an ad hoc enterprise: It is part of the police officer's job. Chapter 2 outlines the conception of the dramaturgical metaphor and its application to street cops. It emphasizes that performance is a natural part of human action both through mediated forms of communication and in naturalistic settings.

    Chapter 3 reviews studies of the content of television portrayals of crime and law enforcement. It also lists and discusses the basic contrasts between the mediated image of cops, what cops believe is the true description of the work life, and how the difference between the two may affect cop and public behavior when they interact.

    Chapter 4 sums up major previous ethnographic research on cop work. In general, most studies argue for the cop's role to be full of inherent tensions and contradictions. These especially center on their dual role of “keeper of the peace and deliverer of justice” versus their officially sanctioned role as law enforcer.

    In Chapter 5, I focus on the “front stage”—how cops deal with the public and how much of this constitutes a pre-scripted act—and the “back stage,” where a different set of thoughts, actions, and behaviors are expressed, including “hidden transcripts” of complaint or criticism of the public, superiors, and other cops.

    Chapter 6 questions the conception of “cop as outsider.” To what extent do cops feel alienated from the very system they are sworn to enforce? How do they view mass media's role in the quality and quantity of that alienation? What is found is an ironic mimicry of television in which cops feel that they live in a Gerbnerian “mean world” consisting of a mendacious public and dangerous criminals.

    Chapter 7 attempts to resolve some of the issues raised by the ethnography but also suggests some that, like many crimes, are not solvable. The main conclusion is that in searching for media influence on daily life, indirect influence based on assumptions of strong effects is an important factor. Real-life cops' beliefs about the power of media may drive what they do on the street; any attempts to build better police-community relations must recognize this fact.

    A basic premise is that people's hopes and fears are affected by what they think they know, based on the evidence that they trust, arising from both the TV world and from what they have personally experienced. This is a human universal. In describing the anxiety and paranoia of the peasantry in the first year of the French Revolution in 1789, historian George Lefebvre (1973) commented,

    What matters in seeking an explanation of the Great Fear is not so much the actual truth as what the people thought the aristocracy could and would do; and it was not so much what happened as what the townspeople and peasants believed to have happened that stirred them into feverish activity. (p. xiii)

    Likewise, what people believe to be true, no matter how fantastic or actual the basis of that belief, affects what they do and thus becomes a social fact, a segment of extramedia reality. In the fata morgana that often tempts researchers trying to prove definite causal relationships between media content and behavior, such perceptual maps are in themselves proof of the power of mass media in our lives. This is true for the police and the public and profoundly influences the system of law and justice in our country today.

    In short, because so much of what is presented here deals with perception as well as observation, several concepts of projection and reality will be used. The term street reality refers to what happens in the cop's material-physical world. It is, of course, reality as assessed by the researcher and thus should be viewed as much a subjective approximation as any other reality. Nevertheless, it is, in a sense, a reference reality of what people (mostly the cops, the subject of the ethnography) think is the true nature of the population and events in their world. Media(ted) reality is the representation of the world of law enforcement found in mass media in general but on television in particular because this is the locus of most research on content and effects of cop and crime texts. These mental and corporeal worlds may converge or diverge, but all are important, and all may affect the beliefs and behaviors of cops (and others) on the street. In ethnography and in life, the mental map guides the actual journey.

    Author's Note

    Gary Allan Fine (1993) has spoken of the “illusion of omniscience” of ethnographers who re-create “a scene with attendant bits of talk,” thus implying to the reader that all that happened was heard, understood, and now is being faithfully reported. Furthermore, by employing the argot of the natives, we hint that we have mastered the Sprachgefühl of the insider. This is hardly a novel phenomenon: Ancient historians, rhetoricians, and biographers quite unashamedly invented entire speeches that they attributed to generals and emperors. Even the most honest among them, Thucydides (1928), admitted,

    As to the speeches that were made by different men, either when they were about to begin the [Peleponnesian] war or when they were already engaged therein, it has been difficult to recall with strict accuracy the words actually spoken, both for me as regards that which I myself heard, and for those who from various other sources have brought me reports. Therefore the speeches are given in the language in which, as it seemed to me, the several speakers would express, on the subjects under consideration, the sentiments most befitting the occasion, though at the same time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said. (p. xxii)

    In the realm of fiction, W. Somerset Maugham similarly commented that he could not abide stories told in the first person that included transcripts of long conversations. How, he asked, could the reader suspend disbelief to credit the narrator with exact recollection of all that was said?

    In this book, the quotes from police officers and others were reproduced from my own transcriptions. Even so, the statements are not verbatim because in taking notes I would often drop repetitious words, stutters, or nonword sounds. In other cases, I tried to jot down a paraphrase after the fact (signified here by the “PP: notation and enclosed in quotes) of what an officer or a member of the public said. In such paraphrases, I attempted to capture the meaning, language, tone, and key words of the incident and the actor. The reader should keep in mind, however, that missing from any quote, whether faithful in word content and order, is a true feeling of context—what it was like to actually “be there.” Moreover, another observer, with other research goals and expectations, might report a different scene that would be no more or less accurate.

    Acknowledgments

    All ethnographers should be grateful to the subjects of their work, but I owe a special debt to the officers of the St. Louis Park Police Department. They were not only guides and informants but also exemplars of how people can cope with stress, chaos, provocation, and danger and still emerge with humor and humanity intact. These are men and women who, for relatively little recompense and even less gratitude, risk their lives to serve and safeguard a citizenry with which they have no personal connection. No facts presented or conclusions drawn from this study should obscure that fact.

    I thank Anne Jett, without whose help this book would never have been finished.

    My wife, Christie, gave me invaluable assistance in preparing and critiquing the manuscript.

    Dona Schwartz reviewed this manuscript, and her suggestions considerably improved and focused it.

    Gina Dubrowski printed about half the photographs displayed here.

    Gratitude is also extended to Randy Johnson, Bill Eilers, Joan Conners, Hannah Gourgey, and Ramona Lyons, who at one time or another responded either to a draft of this work or to some of the ideas contained therein.

    Finally, I wish to note my appreciation to the patient and supportive editors and staff at Sage: Terry Hendrix, Kassie Gavrilis, Diana Axelsen, Anna Howland, and Gillian Dickens.

    The completion of this manuscript was partly funded by a Lee Griffin Research Professorship.

  • Appendix

    Table A.1 List of Network Prime-Time Crime and Law Enforcement Programs by Year, 1947–1994
    1947None
    1948None
    1949
     The Black Robe30 minutes
     Famous Jury Trials30 minutes
     Look Photocrime30 minutes
     Man Against Crime30 minutes
     Martin Kane, Private Eye30 minutes
    1950
     Adventures of Ellery Queen30 minutes
     Dick Tracy30 minutes
     Famous Jury Trials30 minutes
     Inside Detective30 minutes
     Man Against Crime30 minutes
     Martin Kane, Private Eye30 minutes
     The Plainclothesman30 minutes
     They Stand Accused60 minutes
     Treasury Men in Action30 minutes
    1951
     Adventures of Ellery Queen30 minutes
     Amazing Mr. Malone/Mr. District Attorney30 minutes
     Charlie Wild, Private Detective30 minutes
     Crime Syndicated30 minutes
     Crime With Father30 minutes
     Man Against Crime30 minutes
     Martin Kane, Private Eye30 minutes
     The Plainclothesman30 minutes
     Racket Squad30 minutes
     Rocky King, Detective30 minutes
     They Stand Accused60 minutes
     Treasury Men in Action30 minutes
    1952
     Adventures of Ellery Queen30 minutes
     Crime Syndicated30 minutes
     Dragnet/Gangbusters30 minutes
     Inspector Mark Saber30 minutes
     Man Against Crime30 minutes
     Martin Kane, Private Eye30 minutes
     The Plainclothesman30 minutes
     Racket Squad30 minutes
     Rocky King, Detective30 minutes
     Steve Randall30 minutes
     They Stand Accused60 minutes
     Treasury Men in Action30 minutes
    1953
     Dragnet30 minutes
     Inspector Mark Saber30 minutes
     Man Against Crime30 minutes
     Martin Kane, Private Eye30 minutes
     The Plainclothesman30 minutes
     Rocky King, Detective30 minutes
     Treasury Men in Action30 minutes
    1954
     Dragnet30 minutes
     Justice30 minutes
     The Lineup30 minutes
     Public Defender30 minutes
     Rocky King, Detective30 minutes
     The Stranger30 minutes
     They Stand Accused60 minutes
     Treasury Men in Action30 minutes
    1955
     Dragnet30 minutes
     Justice30 minutes
     The Lineup30 minutes
     Wanted30 minutes
    1956
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The Lineup30 minutes
    1957
     Court of Last Resort30 minutes
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The Lineup30 minutes
     M Squad30 minutes
     Meet McGraw30 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Saber of London30 minutes
     Thin Man30 minutes
    1958
     Adventures of Ellery Queen60 minutes
     Confession30 minutes
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The Lineup30 minutes
     M Squad30 minutes
     Naked City30 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Peter Gunn30 minutes
     Saber of London30 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
     Thin Man30 minutes
     Traffic Court30 minutes
    1959
     Bourbon Street Beat60 minutes
     Court of Last Resort30 minutes
     Hawaiian Eye60 minutes
     Hennessey30 minutes
     Lawless Years30 minutes
     The Lineup60 minutes
     M Squad30 minutes
     Markham30 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Peter Gunn30 minutes
     Philip Marlowe30 minutes
     Richard Diamond, Private Detective30 minutes
     Robert Taylor: The Detectives30 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
     Staccato30 minutes
     Tightrope30 minutes
     The Untouchables60 minutes
    1960
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Bourbon Street Beat60 minutes
     Dan Raven60 minutes
     Harrigan and Son30 minutes
     Hawaiian Eye60 minutes
     Hennessey30 minutes
     The Law and Mr. Jones30 minutes
     Michael Shayne60 minutes
     Naked City60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Peter Gunn30 minutes
     Robert Taylor: The Detectives30 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
     Surfside Six60 minutes
     The Untouchables60 minutes
     The Witness60 minutes
    1961
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Cain's Hundred60 minutes
     Car 54, Where Are You?30 minutes
     Checkmate60 minutes
     The Defenders60 minutes
     87th Precinct60 minutes
     Hawaiian Eye60 minutes
     Hennessey30 minutes
     The Investigators60 minutes
     Naked City60 minutes
     The New Breed60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Robert Taylor's Detectives60 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
     Surfside Six60 minutes
     The Untouchables60 minutes
    1962
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Car 54, Where Are You?30 minutes
     The Defenders60 minutes
     Hawaiian Eye60 minutes
     Naked City60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
     The Untouchables60 minutes
    1963
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Arrest and Trial90 minutes
     Burke's Law60 minutes
     The Defenders60 minutes
     The Fugitive60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     77 Sunset Strip60 minutes
    1964
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Burke's Law60 minutes
     The Defenders60 minutes
     The Fugitive60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
    1965
     Amos Burke, Secret Agent60 minutes
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     The Fugitive60 minutes
     Perry Mason60 minutes
     Trials of O'Brien60 minutes
    1966
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Felony Squad30 minutes
     The Fugitive60 minutes
     Hawk60 minutes
    1967
     Andy Griffith Show30 minutes
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Felony Squad30 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Judd, for the Defense60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     N.Y.P.D.30 minutes
    1968
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Felony Squad30 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     It Takes a Thief60 minutes
     Judd, for the Defense60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Mayberry R.F.D.30 minutes
     Mod Squad60 minutes
     N.Y.P.D.30 minutes
     The Outsider60 minutes
    1969
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Bold Ones: The Lawyers/The Protectors60 minutes
     Dragnet30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     It Takes a Thief60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Mayberry R.F.D.30 minutes
     Mod Squad60 minutes
    1970
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Bold Ones: The Lawyers/The Senator60 minutes
     Dan August60 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Mayberry R.F.D.30 minutes
     Mod Squad60 minutes
     The Most Deadly Game60 minutes
     Silent Force30 minutes
     Storefront Lawyers60 minutes
     Young Lawyers60 minutes
    1971
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Bold Ones: The Lawyers60 minutes
     Cade's County60 minutes
     Cannon60 minutes
     The D.A.30 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Longstreet60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Mod Squad60 minutes
     NBC Mystery Movie:90 minutes
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan and Wife
     O'Hara, U.S. Treasury60 minutes
     Owen Marshall60 minutes
     The Partners30 minutes
     The Persuaders60 minutes
    1972
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Banyon60 minutes
     Cannon60 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Mod Squad60 minutes
     NBC Sunday Mystery Movie:90 minutes
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan and Wife/Hec Ramsey90 minutes
     NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie:
     Madigan/Cool Million/Banacek60 minutes
     Owen Marshall
     The Rookies60 minutes
     Streets of San Francisco60 minutes
    1973
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Cannon60 minutes
     Chase60 minutes
     The F.B.I.60 minutes
     Griff60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Kojak60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     NBC Sunday Mystery Movie:120 minutes
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan and Wife/Hec Ramsey90 minutes
     NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie:
     Madigan/Tenafly/Faraday & Company/The Snoop Sisters60 minutes
     New Adventures of Perry Mason
     Owen Marshall60 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
     Streets of San Francisco60 minutes
     Toma60 minutes
     Tuesday Night CBS Movie: Hawkins/Shaft90 minutes
    1974
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Cannon60 minutes
     Get Christie Love60 minutes
     Harry-060 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Ironside60 minutes
     Kodiak30 minutes
     Kojak60 minutes
     Manhunter60 minutes
     Mannix60 minutes
     Nakia60 minutes
     NBC Sunday Mystery Movie:120 minutes
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan and Wife/Amy
     Prentiss60 minutes
     Petrocelli
     Police Story60 minutes
     Police Woman60 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
     Streets of San Francisco60 minutes
    1975
     Baretta60 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Bronk60 minutes
     Cannon60 minutes
     Ellery Queen60 minutes
     Harry-060 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Joe Forrester60 minutes
     Kate McShane60 minutes
     Kojak60 minutes
     Matt Helm60 minutes
     NBC Sunday Mystery Movie:
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan and Wife/McCoy120 minutes
     Petrocelli60 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
     Police Woman60 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
     S.W.A.T.60 minutes
     Starsky & Hutch60 minutes
     Streets of San Francisco60 minutes
     Switch60 minutes
    1976
     Baretta60 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Blue Knight60 minutes
     Charlie's Angels60 minutes
     Delvecchio60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Kojak60 minutes
     Most Wanted60 minutes
     NBC Sunday Mystery Movie:90 minutes
     Columbo/McCloud/McMillan/Quincy, M.E.
     Police Story60 minutes
     Police Woman60 minutes
     The Practice30 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     Serpico60 minutes
     Starsky and Hutch60 minutes
     Streets of San Francisco60 minutes
     Switch60 minutes
    1977
     Baretta60 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Carter Country30 minutes
     Charlie's Angels60 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Hardy Boys Mysteries/Nancy Drew Mysteries60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Kojak60 minutes
     Police Woman60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     Rosetti and Ryan60 minutes
     Starsky and Hutch60 minutes
     Switch60 minutes
    1978
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Carter Country30 minutes
     Charlie's Angels60 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Eddie Capra Mysteries60 minutes
     Hardy Boys Mysteries60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Kaz60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     Starsky and Hutch60 minutes
     Vega$60 minutes
    1979
     The Associates30 minutes
     Barnaby Jones60 minutes
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Big Shamus, Little Shamus60 minutes
     Charlie's Angels60 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Detective School30 minutes
     Eischied60 minutes
     Hart to Hart60 minutes
     Hawaii Five-O60 minutes
     Kate Loves a Mystery60 minutes
     Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo60 minutes
     Paris60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Rockford Files60 minutes
     Vega$60 minutes
    1980
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     Charlie's Angels60 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Enos60 minutes
     Freebie and the Bean60 minutes
     Hart to Hart60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Lobo60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Vega$60 minutes
     Walking Tall60 minutes
    1981
     Barney Miller30 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Hart to Hart60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     McClain's Law60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Shannon60 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     Strike Force60 minutes
     Today's F.B.I.60 minutes
    1982
     Cagney & Lacey60 minutes
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Devlin Connection60 minutes
     Hart to Hart60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Matt Houston60 minutes
     Quincy, M.E.60 minutes
     Remington Steele60 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
     Tucker's Witch60 minutes
    1983
     Hardcastle & McCormick60 minutes
     Hart to Hart60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Matt Houston60 minutes
     The Mississippi60 minutes
     Remington Steele60 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
    1984
     Cagney & Lacey60 minutes
     Hardcastle & McCormick60 minutes
     Hawaiian Heat60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Hot Pursuit60 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     Jessie60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Matt Houston60 minutes
     Miami Vice60 minutes
     Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Partners in Crime60 minutes
     Remington Steele60 minutes
     Riptide60 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
    1985
     Cagney & Lacey60 minutes
     Crazy Like a Fox60 minutes
     The Equalizer60 minutes
     Hardcastle & McCormick60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Hollywood Beat60 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     Lady Blue60 minutes
     Lime Street60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Miami Vice60 minutes
     Moonlighting60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Our Family Honor60 minutes
     Remington Steele60 minutes
     Riptide60 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     Spenser: For Hire60 minutes
    1986
     Cagney & Lacey60 minutes
     Crime Story60 minutes
     Downtown60 minutes
     The Equalizer60 minutes
     Heart of the City60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     LA. Law60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Miami Vice60 minutes
     Moonlighting60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     New Mike Hammer60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Simon & Simon60 minutes
     Sledge Hammer30 minutes
     Spenser: For Hire60 minutes
    1987
     Cagney & Lacey60 minutes
     Crime Story60 minutes
     The Equalizer60 minutes
     Hooperman30 minutes
     Houston Knights60 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     J. J. Starbuck60 minutes
     Jake and the Fatman60 minutes
     LA. Law60 minutes
     The Law and Harry McGraw60 minutes
     Leg Work60 minutes
     Magnum, P.I.60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Miami Vice60 minutes
     Moonlighting60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Ohara60 minutes
     The Oldest Rookie60 minutes
     Private Eye60 minutes
     Sledge Hammer30 minutes
     Spenser: For Hire60 minutes
     21 Jump Street60 minutes
     Wiseguy60 minutes
    1988
     America's Most Wanted30 minutes
     The Equalizer60 minutes
     Hooperman30 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     Knightwatch60 minutes
     L.A. Law60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Miami Vice60 minutes
     Moonlighting60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Murphy's Law60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Police Story120 minutes
     Simon and Simon60 minutes
     Sonny Spoon60 minutes
     21 Jump Street60 minutes
     Wiseguy60 minutes
    1989
     ABC Saturday Mystery:120 minutes
     B. L. Stryker/Columbo/Kojak/Christine Cromwell
     America's Most Wanted30 minutes
     Booker60 minutes
     Cops30 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     Jake and the Fatman60 minutes
     L.A. Law60 minutes
     Mancuso, FBI60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Snoops60 minutes
     21 Jump Street60 minutes
     Wiseguy60 minutes
     Wolf60 minutes
    1990
     Against the Law60 minutes
     America's Most Wanted60 minutes
     Cop Rock60 minutes
     Cops30 minutes
     D.E.A.60 minutes
     Father Dowling Mysteries60 minutes
     Gabriel's Fire60 minutes
     Hunter60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     Jake and the Fatman60 minutes
     LA. Law60 minutes
     Law & Order60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Top Cops30 minutes
     Trials of Rosie O'Neill60 minutes
    1991
     America's Most Wanted60 minutes
     American Detective30 minutes
     The Antagonists60 minutes
     The Commish60 minutes
     Cops60 minutes
     FBI: The Untold Stories30 minutes
     I'll Fly Away60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     Jake and the Fatman60 minutes
     L.A. Law60 minutes
     Law & Order60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Night Court30 minutes
     Pacific Station30 minutes
     Palace Guard60 minutes
     Pros and Cons60 minutes
     Reasonable Doubts60 minutes
     Top Cops60 minutes
     Trials of Rosie O'Neill60 minutes
    1992
     America's Most Wanted60 minutes
     Angel Street60 minutes
     Civil Wars60 minutes
     The Commish60 minutes
     Cops60 minutes
     Hat Squad60 minutes
     I'll Fly Away60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     L.A. Law60 minutes
     Law & Order60 minutes
     Likely Suspects30 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     Picket Fences60 minutes
     Reasonable Doubts60 minutes
     The Round Table60 minutes
     Secret Service60 minutes
     Top Cops60 minutes
    1993
     America's Most Wanted60 minutes
     Bakersfield P.D.30 minutes
     The Commish60 minutes
     Cops60 minutes
     In the Heat of the Night60 minutes
     L.A. Law60 minutes
     Law & Order60 minutes
     Matlock60 minutes
     Missing Persons60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     NYPD Blue60 minutes
     Picket Fences60 minutes
     South of Sunset60 minutes
     Walker, Texas Ranger60 minutes
    1994
     America's Most Wanted60 minutes
     The Commish60 minutes
     Cops60 minutes
     The Cosby Mysteries60 minutes
     Diagnosis Murder60 minutes
     Due South60 minutes
     Homicide: Life on the Streets60 minutes
     Law & Order60 minutes
     Murder, She Wrote60 minutes
     NYPD Blue60 minutes
     New York Undercover60 minutes
     Picket Fences60 minutes
     Sweet Justice60 minutes
     Under Suspicion60 minutes
     Walker, Texas Ranger60 minutes
    SOURCE: Data drawn from Brooks and Marsh (1995).
    NOTE: Program must feature some aspect of law, policing, or criminality.
    Table A.2 Network Prime-Time Hours of Crime and Law Enforcement Programming, 1947–1994
    YearHours in Prime Time Per Week
    19470
    19480
    19492.5
    19505
    19516.5
    19526.5
    19534
    19544.5
    19552
    19561
    19574.5
    19587.5
    195911.5
    196013
    196114.5
    19627
    19637
    19644.5
    19655.5
    19664
    19676
    196810.5
    19698.5
    197011.5
    197115
    197213.5
    197320.5
    197418.5
    197522.5
    197617.5
    197714
    197812
    197914.5
    198011.5
    198110.5
    198212
    19839
    198417.5
    198518.5
    198617
    198722.5
    198817.5
    198915.5
    199015.5
    199117
    199216.5
    199313.5
    199415
    NOTE: Calculated from Table A.1.
    Table A.3 Network Prime-Time Programs Whose Main or Lead Characters Include Uniformed Patrol Officers
    1947None
    1948None
    1949None
    1950None
    1951None
    1952None
    1953
     Man Behind the Badge30 minutes
    1954None
    1955
     Wanted30 minutes
    1956None
    1957None
    1958None
    1959None
    1960None
    1961
     Car 54, Where Are You?30 minutes
    1962
     Car 54, Where Are You?30 minutes
    1963None
    1964None
    1965None
    1966None
    1967None
    1968
     Adam 1230 minutes
    1969
     Adam 1230 minutes
    1970
     Adam 1230 minutes
    1971
     Adam 1230 minutes
    1972
     Adam 1230 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
    1973
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
    1974
     Adam 1230 minutes
     Nakia60 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
    1975
     Joe Forrester60 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
     The Rookies60 minutes
    1976
     Blue Knight60 minutes
     Police Story60 minutes
    1977
     CHiPs60 minutes
    1978
     CHiPs60 minutes
    1979
     CHiPs60 minutes
    1980
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
    1981
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
    1982
     CHiPs60 minutes
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
    1983
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
    1984
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     T. J. Hooker60 minutes
    1985
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
     Our Family Honor60 minutes
    1986
     Hill Street Blues60 minutes
    1987None
    1988
     Police Story120 minutes
    1989
     Cops30 minutes
    1990
     Cop Rock60 minutes
     Cops30 minutes
     Top Cops30 minutes
    1991
     Cops60 minutes
     Top Cops30 minutes
    1992
     Cops60 minutes
    Top Cops30 minutes
    1993
     Bakersfield P.D.30 minutes
     Cops60 minutes
    1994
     Cops60 minutes
    NOTE: Program must feature uniformed, regular, nonranking, patrol police officers as lead characters.

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    About the Author

    David D. Perlmutter teaches political communication at Louisiana State University's Manship School of Mass Communication in Baton Rouge. He is author of Photojournalism and Foreign Policy (1998), Visions of War (1999), and editor of the Manship School Guide to Political Communication (1999).


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