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Public Perception

Describe about the Perception about Police in Britain?

In early days with the existence of media especially films the prime focus was about the heroism established through war movies. It was all about victory, happiness and the prime theme was happy ending. At first with the invention of film or cinemascope the Lumiere brothers tried to capture the daily happenings of life. Like the arrival of the train, the workers leaving the factory and the gardener etc this dealt with the reality. Then the stories of George Melis and fictions like journey to the moon then fairies etc. Through these movies we came to know that cinema as a visual media was very effective for people, especially the viewers. The train arrival at the station made people believe that a giant train was coming at them. Through Melis films people believe that people can make a journey to the moon. Through these instances we can understand that people use to believe what they saw.

This was the scenario during the evolution of cinema. What followed was various stories about war, which is a mere adaptation of the world war era, where in war the main protagonist was victory and they made emphasis on the glory of war (Shaffer and Casey, 2012). So it was quite obvious that people perceived the military people like the Colonel the military general the Major as their Hero (Sharp and Leiboff, n.d.). In fact not only in visual media at that time the novels, the books of fictional stories also made war as a chivalrous thing to do and made people believe that going to war is being a hero for everyone. Books like in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice we can see that Lydia and Kitty, they were amazed by Wickham’s Charm just because he belonged to the military regiment. Similarly in Arms and the man the fiancé of Riana and the main protagonist of the story Bluntschli who was also a soldier were shown as a hero (Sikov, 2010). In fact Sergius Saranoff was portrayed as a hero because he had a good rank in his regiment. This is how people who fought for war were perceived. But that was during world war, the Scenario started changing during the Second World War (Speidel, Wilson and Bethell, 2014).

Around the Second World War movies of Charlie Chaplin were considered a s the most popular. Through his movies we came to know that police use to do their duty, they were very responsible and they awarded the deserving and imprisoned the guilty. In Modern times which was made during the Industrial revolution we have seen that police imprisoned Charlie Chaplin for leading a group of revolutionists with a flag. He was innocent but what followed was that it seemed to be perhaps the best place where he could have resided during the depression. At that time England was dealing with a major economic downturn and people was either dyeing out of hunger of turning into thieves? But in Police station the prisoners were treated well due to the jurisdiction system. In fact the police in charge rewarded Chaplin for helping to capture two prisoners, not only that the prisoner made a reference of the character of Chaplin so that he could work outside the prison. Such was the scenario of thee then time.  The police was more about the loyal worker to the system than a hero; in fact common man became hero. Soon things turned when police were portrayed as villain. More than villain the police were shown as the ultimate authority who can arrest the innocent harm them can even kill them and finally rein them.

Waking the Dead (2000-2011)

During the 90’s the common man were portrayed as heroes. This was the time to make people believe that every person can be a hero. And police played the supporting role. The police were shown as the one who ultimately makes the justice by arresting the criminal. The whole heroic moves were stored for the hero and the justice was done by the police. This contained a very important message. It stated that no matter how right thing the hero is doing the ultimate power lies with the police. We cannot take everything at our hands the police are there to do justice. Initially they may be wrong but at the end the proof is brought in front of them. Take the example of John Rambo, he was an early military man who has been falsely accused of committing a crime and hence he preferred to be out of the system. Similarly in Stories of extreme action the police are sometimes show as taken bribery to kill the hero or dying in the end for losing the fight. Thousands of perceptions were involved with the common people.

The biggest fact is that one can make people believe with the help of Audio-visual media but audience today has their own opinion to work with. When the concept of audio-visual media was novice it was easier for people to believe what was shown but if the reality is far different from the on-screen portrayal then people cannot be fooled.  

There has been innumerous questions about how people behaves towards police their perceptions and attitudes. Several surveys were conducted about the perception of people towards police since 1982 and it has been changed since 2003 so that they could improve data collection quality. A survey is conducted for people who think that their local police is doing a good job and to this fair comments were gathered (Hall, 2011).  According to the new way of collecting data the results have shown that there is a trend in changing perceptions of public regarding police. The reason is not only the good conduct of the police but also a series of police drama series that made people believe that police are doing their work efficiently and effectively with full responsibility. The perception also depended on the number of crimes occurred in the locality and the people confronted (Fitch, 2013). There has been a crime survey in the British localities so as to measure the perception of public and how much improvement is needed and how the people perceive the responsibilities and duties of policemen. The questions which were changed for improving the survey in 2003 were

Whether the police is reliable in matters when they are in need

Does the police treats the public with respect while contacting them for relevant reasons

The police treats everyone fairly despite of their social status or any such

Whether the police could be relied while dealing with crimes which are minor.

Does the police comprehends the importance of the community issues

Does the police deals with things that is of relevance to the community people

Do the local people have the confidence over the local police taking everything into account?

These are the genuine questions that judged how the people perceived the police in their locality, but how the perception changes and how the drama series about police made an impact is a big thing to discover. Let us take an example of the TV series waking the dead.

The Walking Dead is a Television series about police crime procedure by the BBC channel which featured the unit of cold case that comprised the CID police officers and also involved forensic scientist and psychological profiler (Hensman, 2013). The drama is about the CID, the high rank in the police department and the existence of Psychologist of criminals and scientists of forensic because in crime case it is not just the police but these two professions also contributes in tracing the criminals. The running time of the show was 60 minutes and there were a total of 92 episodes till April 2011. Each stories of this series were split into two hour episodes. The third series of this drama won Emmy award in 2004.

The story is about the tasks of special team of police who use to investigate cases which generally concerns about murders that took long ago and has not been solved till they took the initiative (Higbee and Leahy, 2011). There were three main protagonists, Dr. Foley whose character has been played by Sue Johnston, Superintendent Detective Peter Boyd whose character has been portrayed by Trevor Eve and Inspector Detective Spencer Jordan whose character has been played by Wil Johnson. There were also a number of supporting casts.

The show depicted sensitive issues like different religion fanaticism and organized crime in international forum. There were episodes that demonstrated child abuse that too within the Catholic Church and forced child labor, crimes related to war in Bosnia, racism, torture and homophobia. It also portrayed the involvement of UK in the Iraq war, and the banking frauds in the establishment of London city (Hohl, Stanko and Newburn, 2012). Some of the major issues were shown in the story angle of Peter Boyd and his conflicting opinions along with class conservative Spencer Jordan whose character conflicted with that of Boyd.

The character reflection played a very important role in changing the perception of people about police. Detective Superintendent Boyd was the head of the unit. He got involved with the unit no sooner his son went missing during 1990’s. Boyd’s character was sometimes shown as a detached police of his department yet he has been very close towards his team mates (Goodnow, 2010). This included Mel Silver whose death brought a trauma in him as he could not deal with the idea of losing his friend. Boyd’s son was a drug addict and a runaway who went missing as he was living on the streets. Later in the seventh series of waking the dead he was murdered (Forshaw, 2012).  As a detective Boyd was dauntless and uses to give the criminals beating on his own terms.

His character is a big example that showed the internal conflict of a policeman and how his family life contributed in his professional life. He took the charge mainly to find his son whom he loved. The series broadcasted some of the real emotions that a cop goes through and how he deals with them in his own terms (Greenfield and Robson, 2010).

The second important and major character was Detective inspector Spencer Jordan. He was among the original officers who were assigned in the unit since the unit was established and became the lead sidekick of Boyd (Myhill and Bradford, 2012). Boyd and Jordan often had a good cop and bad cop relation in the interview rooms which slightly depicted the character in the personal aspect. Later Jordan was promoted into detective inspector in the beginning of the fourth series having joined as the initial sergeant (Redner, 2011). In the end of the series Jordan remained with Boyd in order to find Linda Cummings even before having an intention of leaving the unit. This characteristic showed that the police have their duty instigated in them. It’s like an alarm which they cannot deny . Being policemen makes a person responsible of his action and his duty. It’s a big lesson for the audience that they may also have intention of leaving but in the end they risk their life so as to save the people and make them believe that they are there for their safety (Reinhardt, Pennycott and Fellinghauer, 2014).


Earlier people perceived that police is there to do his duty, Justice and fight with the criminals but very few people realized that they also have a family like the common people, if they didn’t chose to be a police then they would have been common man.

There has been many series and movies related to police and their responsibilities. Certain series like the American drama Gotham, Law and Order, White Collars, even the modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes had portrayed crime into an advanced level. Here innovative ways of killing and how the police with their qualities have been able to track them were shown. This not only includes police but also professional detectives. A recent drama series Gotham can be one of the example of how people has changed their perception of police. The concept is such an out of box that even it influenced children to believe that superheroes existed because there were good policemen. Before batman, or before any superhero there were cops. Police are the real heroes who risks their life daily so that we could live a peaceful life.


Fitch, B. (2013). Law enforcement ethics. [S.l.: s.n.].

Forshaw, B. (2012). British crime film. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire [UK]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Goodnow, K. (2010). Kristeva in Focus: From Theory to Film Analysis. Berghahn Books.

Greenfield, S. and Robson, P. (2010). Film and the law. Oxford: Hart Pub.

Hall, N. (2011). Policing hate crime in London and New York City: Some reflections on the factors influencing effective law enforcement, service provision and public trust and confidence. International Review of Victimology, 18(1), pp.73-87.

Hensman, R. (2013). Oracles of Suburbia: French Cinema and Portrayals of Paris Banlieues , 1958–1968. Modern & Contemporary France, 21(4), pp.435-451.

Higbee, W. and Leahy, S. (2011). Studies in French cinema. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Hohl, K., Bradford, B. and Stanko, E. (2010). Influencing Trust and Confidence in the London Metropolitan Police: Results from an Experiment Testing the Effect of Leaflet Drops on Public Opinion. British Journal of Criminology, 50(3), pp.491-513.

Hohl, K., Stanko, B. and Newburn, T. (2012). The Effect of the 2011 London Disorder on Public Opinion of Police and Attitudes Towards Crime, Disorder, and Sentencing.Policing, 7(1), pp.12-20.

Myhill, A. and Bradford, B. (2012). Can police enhance public confidence by improving quality of service? Results from two surveys in England and Wales. Policing and Society, 22(4), pp.397-425.

Redhead, S. (2010). Lock, stock and two smoking hooligans: low sport journalism and hit‐and‐tell literature. Soccer & Society, 11(5), pp.627-642.

Redner, G. (2011). Deleuze and film music. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Reinhardt, J., Pennycott, A. and Fellinghauer, B. (2014). Impact of a film portrayal of a police officer with spinal cord injury on attitudes towards disability: a media effects experiment.Disabil Rehabil, 36(4), pp.289-294.

Shaffer, C. and Casey, O. (2012). Behind the glasses and beneath the bun: portrayals of librarians in popular cinema and a guide for developing a collection. Collection Building, 32(2), pp.39-45.

Sharp, C. and Leiboff, M. (n.d.). Cultural legal studies.

Sikov, E. (2010). Film studies. New York, N.Y.: Columbia U.P.

Speidel, L., Wilson, R. and Bethell, B. (2014). 'Cop Shows: A Critical History of Police Dramas on Television.

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