Color of Change, a nonprofit founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and dedicated to social justice advocacy, and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center just completed a new study about representation and messaging in police and crime TV shows. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results backup the revelations from the Washington Post's 2016 investigative series, "Dragnets, Dirty Harrys, and Dying Hard: 100 years of the police in pop culture" — that police department PR machines have long collaborated with Hollywood executive powers-that-be to utilize TV to influence public perceptions of law enforcement.
The report is based a data crunch of 353 episodes from 26 crime-related scripted television shows that aired in the 2017-2018 season. They analyzed the race and gender breakdowns of the writers, showrunners, and consultants involved in the shows, as well as the on-screen representation of criminal justice, persons of interest, and victims. Overall, the study identified 5,400 variable data points across the shows, focusing on such questions:
Do crime procedurals and other crime-focused series produced in the U.S. accurately depict the reality of the criminal justice system, accurately depict racial disparities (e.g., racially biased treatment by authorities, the disproportionate targeting of people of color communities, disproportionate punishment or other outcomes based on race) and depict reforms and other solutions for correcting racial disparities in the criminal justice system?
If present, do series portray any specific actions or attitudes of criminal justice professionals as directly resulting in those racial disparities? Do they portray any of the routine practices of the criminal justice system as resulting in racial disparities? Read the rest
Tales of piss-headed police officers dominated the news in the week before New Years (at least, in my social circles, if we discount everything related to Star Wars). In West Virginia, the governor has finally recommended the firing of the full Hitler Heil-ing cadet class. In Kansas, another cop was (allegedly) terminated after writing "Fucking Pig" on his own McDonald's coffee cup and trying to blame it on the hard-working, underpaid workers whom he should be theoretically serving and protecting. (Some cops in Alabama also made a mocking "homeless quilt" that the department later apologized for, though the officers weren't actually reprimanded as far as I can tell.)
On the surface, this is largely a good thing. Although these are somewhat-minor acts in the grand scheme of police behaviors, the fact that there are actually repercussions for police misconduct already represents a sea change from the way things have been. Police departments across the country have kept secret lists of criminal crops who remain in their employ; typically, when cops are caught lying about things (even as dumb and small as a McDonald's coffee cup), the rest of their testimony is still given weight. Hell, the National Center for Women and Policing found that at least 40% of police officers self-reported domestic violence in the home … and still keep their jobs.
But these guys in West Virginia and Kansas? They might actually lose their jobs over a couple of pictures.
The public outrage towards unfair and overly aggressive policing has noticeably swelled alongside the raise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and particularly in the aftermath of that obscene military occupation in Ferguson. Read the rest
"Tony's very glad to be going back to work," said Steven D. Cahn, attorney for Anthony Sarni. "He's a police officer. That's what he's dedicated to doing — serving the town."
In September 2012 Officer Sarni "served" the town of Edison NJ by asking a woman staying in a hotel room to model lingerie for him. He'd gone to the hotel to respond to a fire alarm (which turned out to be false). When the woman said "no," Officer Sarni allegedly told her that her "fate was in his hands."
He earlier let her flush some pot down the toilet, so she took that as a threat that she might go to jail, she said later. But he gave up and left, she told investigators, with a promise that he'd return.
This account is based on reams of newly obtained Internal Affairs documents that include interviews with Sarni and investigators' descriptions of witness statements from the woman and hotel staff. NJ Advance Media received the reports via a court records request. Sarni, who was suspended with pay in October 2013 for alleged misconduct, is suing to keep his job. He is paid $120,000 a year, though he has not worked for the past 22 months.
The woman says Officer Sarni -- off duty but still in uniform -- returned to the hotel, made his way into the room and asked her again to model the lingerie. This time she complied. She says he got an erection and asked if things could go further. Read the rest