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Photography and Police Power
Time and Newsweek, 1950-1980
Nicole J. Maurantonio
Ph.D student, University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication
201 S. 18th St. Apt. 1115
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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Examining visual images printed within Time and Newsweek, this paper
maps the contours of police representation through an analysis of
visual coverage of police and police authority between 1950 and 1980,
a period not only of contestation within police departments
nationwide regarding the "proper" role of the police within society
but also of social, political, and cultural transformation within the
Mention of the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention conjures
particularly vivid images of National Guardsmen poised with guns,
bloodied protesters, and people chaotically flooding the streets of
the city. While this incident evokes a particular image of police
(mis)use of authority, this paper examines police representation
within a broader historical frame by examining visual coverage of
police and police authority between 1950 and 1980 within Time and
Newsweek. During this period not only of contestation within police
departments nationwide regarding the "proper" role of the police
within society but also of social, political, and cultural
transformation within the United States, who wielded police power and
how it was manifested was of central concern. Thus, photographs
printed within these newsmagazines are evaluated according to the
explicit and sometimes more subtle displays of police power, focusing
upon shifts over time.
When Mayor Richard Daley ordered Chicago police to "shoot to kill"
during the Democratic National Convention in late August 1968, any
semblance of `order'—that crucial component of the `law and order'
trope that had come to dominate popular discourse—dissipated in a
wave of riots and haze of tear gas. Bearing witness to the event,
journalist Norman Mailer proclaimed the city under siege. Mailer
recounted: "The police attacked with tear gas, with Mace, with clubs,
they attacked like a chain saw cutting into wood, the teeth of the
saw the edge of their clubs, they attacked like a scythe through
grass, lines of twenty and thirty policemen striking out in an arc,
their clubs beating, demonstrators fleeing." The nation looked on,
glued to television sets across the country. At this particular
historical juncture, Chicago appeared to encapsulate a nation on the
verge—a nation that had over the course of several months been forced
to confront the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert
F. Kennedy, news of a seemingly unwinnable war in Vietnam captured in
recent reports of the Tet Offensive, and a deeply splintered
Democratic Party. As Newsweek headlines announced, "The Battle of
Chicago" was characterized by "Lots of Law, Little Order." Full
pages of photos published in the September 9, 1968 edition of the
newsmagazine one week after the convention displayed policemen
dragging demonstrators, National Guardsmen standing in formation with
guns poised, people flooding the streets, bloodied protesters—a scene
that can best be described, as one caption pronounced, as a "war."
Chaos reigned in the streets, and the police responded in a way that,
as Time magazine reported: "could only be characterized as sanctioned
mayhem… the blue-shirted, blue-helmeted cops violated the civil
rights of countless innocent citizens and contravened every accepted
code of professional police discipline." The law may have been
present, but its words went unheeded.
Published some two weeks after the convention had ended, a Time
magazine article suggested that in the wake of the convention and
subsequent television coverage "Chicago's police will have to work
hard to erase the impression that they are a gang of undisciplined
bullies." The power of the visual image conjured by the
Democratic National Convention could not be ignored. However, the
magazine's claim similarly implied that the events which occurred in
Chicago signaled a profound shift from prior accounts of police
(mis)use of authority—a shift that would tarnish the public's
perception of its police. While the magazine's preoccupation with
what it perceived to be the damaging implications of media coverage
for the police raises a host of questions surrounding audience
reception and media effects, Time's effort to situate Chicago '68 as
a moment of crisis and discontinuity raises a more fundamental
question about the nature of police coverage in the period
surrounding the Democratic National Convention. How were the police
represented before they were seen violently clashing with
protestors? Did 1968 truly represent a turning point in the manner
in which police power was represented by the media? Isserman and
Kazin have argued that 1968, a year of international insurgence and
political upheaval, was "the pivot of the American decade." But
did such transformations translate into media coverage? Did the
widening of the "credibility gap" and the questioning of elected
authority ultimately impact representations of the police? If 1968
did in fact signify a shift in the nature of police coverage—from
what to what?
This paper will contribute to existing historical analyses by
beginning to map the contours of police representation through an
examination of visual coverage of police and police authority between
1950 and 1980. By 1977, Time had a reported 4.3 million subscribers
and approximately 21.2 million readers, while Newsweek's circulation
was reported at 3.0 million, with approximately 17.8 million
readers. As a distinctive subset of news media, weekly
newsmagazines constitute a particularly compelling source base—one
that has yet to be sufficiently tapped in studies of police and
crime. As Gans pointed out in his seminal work, Deciding What's
News, "[s]ince the magazines come out after all the headlines are
known, they review the major events of the week, summarizing and
integrating the daily newspaper and television reports into a single
whole, and speculating, when possible, about the
future." Publishing after news has been "made," newsmagazines are
able to take greater liberties in reflecting upon events, thereby
distinguishing themselves not so much with story content but
presentation—cover choices, for instance—visual appeal. As a
participant observer of both Time and Newsweek throughout the late
1960s and 1970s, Gans noted that editors considered photographs as
important as text, no doubt in part attributable to the emergence of
print's staunchest rival during this period, the television. Given
the centrality of visuals to both Time and Newsweek, within this
paper I focus solely upon photographic representations of police
power within the United States between 1950 and 1980—more
specifically who wields this power and how it was manifested.
"Power" is undoubtedly a problematic term—one that joins the ranks
of words like "agency" and "culture." Yet within this context I take
"police power" to mean, following Wilson, "all the ways police
encounter, manage, and direct the citizenry, not just criminals or
the disorderly." "Power" is not simply represented by latent or
explicit use of force and thus should not be assumed to take on
solely a negative connotation. Rather, as John Tagg has argued,
"power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of
objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth." Police
power can assume a number of forms ranging from uniformed presence on
the streets and interactions with community members to speaking to
journalists during press conferences and elaborating upon stories
that traveled over the police wire. Police officers play active
roles in the construction of their media images. As both readers and
subjects of news, police officers are located in a unique position as
both part of the citizenry and yet simultaneously entrusted with the
sanctioned authority to protect it. Thus, this paper is not meant to
simply document the manner in which Time and Newsweek chose to
portray members of law enforcement between 1950 and 1980. Police
officers were not merely beholden to the will of these news
organizations but rather implicated within a more complicated matrix
While police officers as individuals and members of an institutional
community comprise the focus of this paper, the act of "policing"
itself is worthy of discussion. Perhaps most commonly associated
with the formative works of Foucault and Hall, "policing" has become,
in the words of Wilson, "a shorthand metaphor for the surveillance
work often undertaken by modern social agencies"—the mass media
one among many. The role of the media, as Hall et al. assert, is to
"define for the majority of the population what significant events
are taking place, but, also, they offer powerful interpretations of
how to understand these events. Implicit in those interpretations
are orientations toward the events and the people or groups involved
in them." News organizations depend upon "regular and reliable
institutional sources" for information pertaining to particular
stories. As Fishman noted in his study of "crime waves" and news
"ideology" in the late 1970s, "[n]ews workers will not know what the
police do not routinely detect or transmit to them. What journalists
do know of crime is formulated for them by law enforcement
agencies." Where questions of news were concerned, the police
and the media were, and continue to be, inextricably linked. The
police thus present a crucial point of entry into thinking about the
relationships between law enforcement, the media, and the communities
both institutions serve.
The Power of Photographs
Photographs offer an especially noteworthy medium for analyzing
representations of police during the latter-half of the twentieth
century—a period during which the competition launched by the
television created an even greater impetus for print media to
incorporate visual sources into their pages. Like written texts,
photographs can be located within a discursive realm, as Sekula and
others have claimed, fulfilling a rhetorical function as an
"utterance of some sort," carriers of or in fact messages
themselves. Photographs are not media of record devoid of
subjectivity, regardless of the supposed level of authenticity
photographs are deemed to take on. As Barthes has argued, the
"[p]hotograph is pure contingency and can be nothing else…it
immediately yields up those `details' which constitute the very raw
material of ethnological knowledge." While a picture may be
"worth a thousand words," or so goes the saying, how a picture is
constructed and what consequences it bears for its subjects are
questions that assume particular relevance when reading photographs
within an historical context. Photographs are significant not only
for their evidentiary power but for their testimony to a specific
moment in time.
The photograph thus embodies the historical interactions between
institutions and individuals—its status, as Tagg has commented,
determined by the "power relations which invest
it." Photographs have been crucial to police, wielding power as
both documents of identification and "value as evidence." How
the police have been implicated within the broader landscape of
visual coverage, however, remains an avenue of inquiry scholars have
Crime, Crime News, and Cops
Crime is anything but an understudied subject where media are
concerned. While undoubtedly certain historical moments (i.e. the
rising crime rates of the 1960s) have spurred scholarly interests,
even during periods of relative calm or stasis, crime news—both its
content and its effects upon "the public" have motivated continuous
research. Beginning with some of the earliest studies of crime news
content, scholars have debated the relationship between crime
coverage and actual instance of crime. Often, these studies
emphasized the role of the journalist and news organization in
shaping rather than mirroring reality—a now-familiar assumption based
upon the work of sociologists such as Gans and Tuchman.
In addition to content analyses of crime-related news coverage,
however, the effects of crime coverage, as well as ethnographic
accounts of policing, semiotics, and reality-based television
have also developed into fertile areas of inquiry dealing with crime
news and policing.
Ethnographic studies of police, such as Perlmutter's Policing the
Media, have contributed to policing scholarship not only by helping
us better understand the dynamics of a police force but also by
providing an in-depth look at the police officers themselves as both
authorities and civilians. Acknowledging police officers as
social "actors," Perlmutter aptly positions police officers as
intimately tied to the publics they are sworn to serve. The
photographs accompanying Perlmutter's text offer his readers a
glimpse not only of exciting car chases and arrests but of the more
mundane images of cops waiting in patrol cars and filling out
paperwork. Such images challenge the stereotypes pervading prime-time
and serve as a reminder of the often extraordinary events that make the news.
Despite the various inroads scholars have made with respect to crime
news coverage and its effects, scholars have yet to adequately
examine the police—the institutional departments as well as the
officers who comprise them. Ethnography has presented one move in
this direction, however of the various disciplinary and
methodological approaches that have been taken to studies of the
police, an historical lens remains one that has not been sufficiently
applied—a void I hope to begin to fill with this
analysis. Understanding how police officers have been represented by
various media outlets over time carries ramifications not only for
examinations of content but for studies of institutional
relationships and audience response as well. A more comprehensive
understanding of how cops themselves are represented—how police
authority is portrayed by the media—is pivotal to positioning
officers as historical actors. Moving beyond crime-related images
alone allows for more nuanced understandings of where police officers
can be located within the routines of news production. While
newsmagazines appeared after television news aired and newspapers
were printed, patterns displayed by Time and Newsweek may speak to
broader trends in coverage channeling both print and broadcast sources.
Repositioning Police Power
Police power was a particularly salient issue in the post-World War
II period. While the special "red squads" formed within police
departments in the late 1930s and 1940s were on the decline
throughout the 1950s, questions of precisely what the role of the
police was in society moved to the fore of the institutional
establishment. Police squads would no longer be as concerned with
hunting down communists and potential subversives. With the
publication of UC-Berkeley Criminology professor and future Chicago
Police Chief O.W. Wilson's Police Administration in 1950, the
function of police officers was challenged and subsequently
redefined, signaling a shift in the conceptualization of policing
within the postwar American landscape. As Wilson wrote, "[t]he old
police philosophy of `throw 'em in jail' has changed to a new
philosophy of keeping people out of jail." Policing required
more than simply locking up the "bad guys." Policing required the
repositioning of "the welfare of the individual and of society."
Within Wilson's extensive analysis of contemporary policing
deficiencies and suggestions for institutional improvement, a section
titled "The police and the press" was included. Conceding the
vulnerability of the police and encouraging the development of
"friendly" relations with the press to minimize the "likelihood of
unfair criticisms," Wilson situated print media as a crucial
player in formulating the image of the police presented to the
public—a reality Wilson firmly believed police departments needed to
acknowledge and take advantage of.
This relationship between the police and the press, however, was not
one simply grounded in the interests of police reputation. The press
was viewed as an invaluable tool which could be used to highlight
departmental needs, whether they be additional personnel or more
technologically advanced equipment. Most importantly, print could be used for
…reporting department activities to the public, informing them of
department programs and procedures, enlisting their assistance in
crime and traffic-control programs, instructing them on the nature
and purpose of new regulations, and educating them in procedures
designed to minimize opportunities for criminal acts and accidents.
Newspapers could inform civilians of daily police activities, making
officers more visible figures within communities as well as more
directly engage citizens themselves in the law enforcement
process. Print media afforded the police and civilians the
opportunity to actively work together to ensure the safety of their
While police power appeared to coalesce in new ways in the 1950s,
the 1960s heralded another transformation. The police may have
technically wielded the power to enforce the law, yet rising crime
rates served as a constant reminder of an apparent inability to do
so. A June 1965 Gallup poll recorded 51% of its sample claiming there
existed more crime in their communities than 5 years
ago. President Lyndon Johnson's decision to establish the
Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration through Executive
order 11236 in July 1965 underscored the perceived urgency of the
nation's crime problems—which only appeared to worsen over the course
of the decade as riots spread through cities from Philadelphia to
Watts to Detroit between 1964 and 1967. While the Commission
recognized "…it is a time when police work is peculiarly important,
complicated, conspicuous, and delicate," the Commission refused
to exonerate the police.
Police officers, too, were implicated in the social unrest and
disorder that pervaded the American landscape. This was due, in no
small part, to the efforts of the burgeoning civil rights movement
throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Playing upon the visibility of the
police and aggressive police action, the civil rights movement
utilized the media to advance its cause. One need only mention the
name of Birmingham, Alabama police chief Bull Connor and graphic
images of police officers with attack dogs and fire hoses blasting
protestors are immediately invoked—images that were so poignant
President John F. Kennedy reportedly admitted they made him sick.
The 1960s was also a period of change in terms of what was and what
was not within the scope of police action—a function of decisions
made by the Supreme Court limiting the historically unmitigated
authority of police. Procedures became more narrowly circumscribed
and laws more firmly established. The so-called "rights revolution"
advanced by the Warren Court with decisions such as Katz v. United
States (1961), Gideon v. Wainright (1963) and Miranda v. Arizona
(1966) had direct consequences for the power police officers wielded
in their dealings with suspects.
Despite these institutional developments in policing practice, race
relations proved pivotal in reconceptualizing police power throughout
this period. When the National Advisory Commission on Civil
Disorders, established by President Johnson in July 1967, pronounced
several key "ingredients" used to catalyze the "explosive mixture"
that sparked years of rioting, both the police and the media were
noted. The Commission claimed:
To some Negroes police have come to symbolize white power, white
racism, and white repression. And the fact is that many police do
reflect and express these white attitudes. The atmosphere of
hostility and cynicism is reinforced by a widespread belief among
Negroes in the existence of police brutality and in a `double
standard' of justice and protection—one for Negroes and one for whites.
How power was exercised by police officers thus became of utmost
concern. While the commission clearly deemed the police in large
part culpable for the trajectory of the 1967 riots, the media were
cited as an equally vital player in shaping public images. Charging
media outlets with sensational reporting, perpetuating
unsubstantiated rumors, and plain distortions, the Commission argued
that media "color and intensify reactions to news of racial trouble
and threats of racial conflict" by positioning conflicts
explicitly as race issues.
For the Commission, miscommunication, misinformation, and downright
hostility between the police and media were prime sources of
trouble. The Commission recounted: "Many experienced and capable
journalists complained that policemen and their commanding officers
were at best apathetic and at worst overtly hostile toward reporters
attempting to cover a disturbance. Policemen, on the other hand,
charged that many reporters seemed to forget that the task of the
police is to restore order." With both institutions actively
trying to police the other, vying for power, more comprehensive news
coverage may have been sacrificed.
Reading Time and Newsweek
Examining this period of intense contestation over power and how it
would be manifested, I selected and subsequently coded a sample of
photographs from articles drawn from an H.W. Wilson Company/Wilson
Web search. The database was searched by the term "police" between
January 1, 1950 and January 1, 1980, yielding a little over 455 total
articles—approximately 245 Newsweek and 210 Time. The term "police"
was used in an effort to obtain articles dealing not exclusively with
crime but rather with the wider range of activities police officers
are typically engaged in. While searching for "police" rather than
"crime" undoubtedly permitted more irrelevant articles to pass
through the database filter, it nevertheless provided a broader
foundation for interpreting the actions and interactions of police
officers within departments nationwide. Instead of situating police
officers solely as those who bring the "bad guys" to justice, or at
least attempt to do so, this sample was intended to capture police
interactions with members of the community, politicians, and each
other, as well as perpetrators and victims of crime.
Excluding articles dealing with international policing issues,
global terrorism and war, as well as articles altogether
irrelevant to the issue of law enforcement, the final sample, which
subsequently eliminated approximately 50 articles within each
magazine, included an array of stories addressing different locales
across the nation. This final sample of articles was not limited to,
although it predominantly addressed, big-city police departments such
as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Smaller
departments in Houston, Cleveland, and Birmingham, Alabama, for
instance, similarly made appearances within the sample. However,
their presence could be attributed almost entirely to the
extraordinary circumstances surrounding the stories in which these
local police departments were involved.
This final sample was then searched for photographic representations
of police officers and subsequently coded for content when an image
surfaced. This approach further reduced the sample size by
approximately a half. The remaining images were located within one
of six categories whose boundaries I determined on the basis of the
type of action (or lack thereof) a police officer was depicted
engaging in: "implicit authority," which included images displaying
no police action, "community action," defined primarily by police
presence within the community, "judicial action," characterized by
police interactions with suspects, "physical action," manifested in
either implicit of explicit use of force, "deviant action," which
included photos of police officers who abused their authority, and
"other." These are by no means static categories of analysis,
however, as basic groupings, they provide a framework for thinking
about the different ways in which police officers were portrayed
within Time and Newsweek and subsequently read by their
audiences. While alternative means of categorizing the images
printed in these two magazines could have been applied, what these
categories evaluate are the explicit and sometimes much more subtle
displays of police power.
The "implicit authority" grouping illustrates police officers who,
while not visibly "acting" as police officers, still convey the power
they possess. Photographs typically included within this category
consist of images, often close-ups, of so-called "top cops." These
men, and during this period they were almost all men, included the
ranks of police chiefs such as Los Angeles's Chief Parker,
Philadelphia's, and then New York's, Chief Howard Leary as well as
other police commissioners, inspectors, and captains. While these
high-ranking officials were usually not seen donning police uniform,
the most transparent signifier of power, the images printed were
often at a camera angle such that the viewer was forced to look up at
the figure, visually reinforcing his status and authority. The
frequency of such photos similarly reinforces their potency. As
familiarity with a police officer's identity increases, the more
likely the viewer is to acknowledge his official authority.
Headshots of uniformed cops were also included within this category.
While the identities of the individuals pictured were not easily
recognizable, the presence of the uniform links the officer to the
larger institution and its power. While close-ups tend to dominate
as signifiers of "implicit authority," long shots of police officers
in formation, whether riding in a motorcade or standing in line,
similarly mark the implicit power of a policing unit. Within one
photograph, printed in Newsweek on November 28, 1960, a particularly
dominant symbol of authority was combined with the line of uniformed
police—the American flag. The presence of the flag positions the
police officers within the photo, and by extension police officers
throughout the nation, as implicated in protecting more than their
local communities. Police officers were seen as preservers of
national order. As one February 8, 1954 Newsweek article claimed:
"the policemen are just as much soldiers, defending the nation, as
the riflemen now in Korea. Many have been killed in line of duty,
and many more have been crippled…" While the police officers
within this category of photos may not be seen actively engaging in
their daily routines, their level of engagement with the job is
clear. Within both the Time and Newsweek samples, this category
included the largest percentage of photographs, approximately 37% and
Under the "community action" category fall images of police officers
interacting with members of the community as well as each other.
Photos of police officers working with kids, guiding tourists, and
watching crowds, such as those printed in Time on July 7, 1958, for
instance, show police officers as authority figures by virtue of
their relationships with civilians. Photographs of officers in
training, whether testing out new equipment or practicing arrests,
were also included within this category. While members of the
community may or may not have been explicitly seen, the implication
of photos of police officers preparing for situations within the
community makes such images a crucial component of this
category. Police officers learn certain law enforcement techniques
so that they may use them if necessary—not to encourage physical
confrontation and conflict. This category comprised the second
largest for Time, with 25% of photographs falling under this
grouping. The percentage of "community action" and "physical action"
photos were equivalent in Newsweek, each constituting roughly 22% of
While the "judicial action" and "physical action" categories overlap
quite a bit in their conceptualization, both dealing primarily with
suspects and alleged criminals, the fundamental difference between
these groups rests in the visible presence of violence or the
potential for violence on the part of the police. Whereas "judicial
action" may be witnessed as a police officer places an individual in
handcuffs or pulls over a speeding car, "physical action" can be
observed when a police officer raises his nightstick or points his
gun. The police officer whose photo is located within the "physical
action" category may or may not actually be seen committing the act
of violence suggested in the photograph. Nonetheless, he is situated
with the explicit power to engage in a physical confrontation with
another individual(s). The police officer displaying "physical
action" is typically seen carrying a weapon that can be drawn at a
moment's notice whereas the police officer exercising "judicial
action" reveals no visible tool for exerting physical force.
"Judicial action" was seen less frequently in both magazines than
"physical action," comprising 10% of the Time sample and 14% of the
Newsweek sample. "Physical action" characterized approximately 14% of
Time's photos and 22% of Newsweek's.
The category of "deviant action" includes photos of police officers
who abused their power. These are the images of the so-called "bad
apples"--"cops gone bad." While the unlawful actions of these
persons is most often an individual offense, corrupt police officers
are typically taken as indicative, as Ross argued in a comparative
study of Toronto and New York police, of a larger systemic
problem. Thus, in the wake of the 1950s redefinition of police
power, ensuring that these officers were brought to justice was of
utmost concern. Police departments became invested in disassociating
police officers from corrupt political machines often in big-city
arenas, a damaging association that had its roots in nineteenth
century political corruption. By the 1960s, however, "police
brutality" became the catch phrase used when describing police misuse
The advent of civilian review boards within cities like Philadelphia
and New York, more aggressive investigations by Internal Affairs
Bureaus, and the proliferation of government-sponsored commissions
during the 1960s and 1970s, all pointed to sustained efforts to
ensure that the integrity of police departments would be
maintained. In light of these efforts, it is perhaps unsurprising
that it was particularly difficult to determine which photographs
were of these "cops gone bad" without the help of captions. Often
such police officers were depicted without uniform, looking down as
if to communicate the shame they brought upon themselves as well as
their departments. They were also commonly depicted behind bars,
marking a transformation from protector to perpetrator. Because
their authority was in question, their police power remained visually
ambiguous. Virtually indistinguishable from other criminals, these
police officers were subject to the law like any other civilian.
While captions did not figure specifically into the categorization of
photographs, within cases of police deviance, they were used to
define photo content. Nonetheless, this category constituted the
smallest percentage of photos for both newsmagazines—roughly 5% within each.
The "other" category constitutes a residual grouping of images that
did not clearly fit within one category or another. These images
comprised roughly 7 percent of the Newsweek sample and 9 percent of
the Time sample. They are the "what-a-story!" pieces that defied easy
categorization. Often these images did not deal specifically with
police power as displayed on the job but rather with officers acting
in different arenas. Police unionization and subsequent images of
officers striking were the most common "other." Extraordinary stories
such as one of police officers playing softball with hippies or a
husband-wife police team were also included within this
category. Though it could be argued that such stories could
similarly fall within the "community action" category, what
distinguishes the articles located in the "other" group is their
appeal beyond the job. Within both of these examples, police
officers were not on the job but rather acting outside of it. While
these stories may not share much other than their relative
unpredictability and/or novelty, they do provide a backdrop against
which police officers may be situated within other contexts—how their
power translates beyond their formal policing duties.
Despite the relatively small sample of articles analyzed, the
patterns of coverage within Time and Newsweek uncovered are worthy of
further scrutiny. Between 1950 and 1980, both Time and Newsweek
exhibited similar trends in the nature of their photographic
content. The total number of photographs dealing with police
officers increased markedly in both magazines between 1950 and 1970,
undoubtedly a function not only of television's influence but of the
proliferation of stories in which police were related. And with
advances in photographic technology such as the lightweight 16mm
camera, capturing news as it unfolded became an easier task for
journalists and photojournalists alike. While photos of police
officers were virtually nonexistent within this sample initially, by
the late 1950s and early 1960s police officers appeared in greater
numbers. As the maintenance of social order became increasingly
central to the American landscape, representations of police emerged.
While heightened police visibility within Time and Newsweek can be
attributed to the connection between police officers and the types of
stories that tended to dominate news media at the time, the active
efforts of police departments to make themselves a more noticeable
presence within communities, the fulfillment of O.W. Wilson's
proposition for a better and more professional police department,
must also be considered. The precise mechanisms utilized by police
officers to help construct their media images may have not been
explored within this project, yet the nature of police coverage
suggests a more complicated relationship at work than news
organizations' decisions alone.
Despite increases in visual coverage between 1950 and 1970 within
both magazines, the more specific nature of police representation
demands attention. Across both Time and Newsweek, the greatest
number of images overall tended to fall within the "implicit
authority" category. For Time, images of "implicit authority" were
dominant throughout virtually the entire period—even during the
late-1960s when the most threatening images of police officers
carrying weapons and dressed in riot gear were printed. Perhaps even
more importantly, between 1965 and 1969, arguably the most
contentious half-decade during the period under consideration, Time's
images of "implicit authority" appeared in greatest number. While
Newsweek did not display implicit police power as forcefully, such
images appeared almost evenly alongside photos of police officers
subduing rioters and arresting suspects. Nonetheless, what these
results suggest is an active attempt on the part of both
newsmagazines, though Time more specifically, to reinforce the image
of the non-threatening officer whose power was recognizable through
cues such as celebrity and camera angle, though visually carried no
reference to the job he was entrusted to perform. Representations of
police presence rather than action were adopted as the dominant mode
of signifying authority.
The predominance of such photos suggests an effort to reinforce the
status quo, a reassertion of the symbolic authority police
departments should have embodied. By addressing journalists or
speaking with local politicians, the police officers pictured posed
no threat to the integrity of the department. The newsmagazines'
default to "implicit authority" represents an effort to contribute to
the maintenance of social order—an attempt on the part of the media
to "police" itself. This is not to say images portraying police
officers as aggressors were not displayed. During especially intense
moments of social, cultural, and political conflict such as the
Democratic National Convention, these images were dominant—suggesting
a moment of discontinuity and crisis.
The "implicit authority" classification signifies one way of dealing
with what appeared to be a visibility paradox for police during this
period. While police officers initially sought to become more
visible members of communities as protectors and keepers of the
peace, news organizations were forced to confront the developing
reality—police visibility seemed to increase in tandem with
heightened tension and strife. This conflict in modes of
representation marked the nature of police coverage from the 1960s
through 1980. In the years post-1969, while images manifesting
"implicit authority" continued to dominate, a greater variety of
images were printed. Police could be seen exerting authority in a
number of different ways perhaps indicating a broader
reinterpretation of power relations that extended into law enforcement.
This shift may also serve to explain an increase within both
newsmagazines in the "other" category. Seen fulfilling roles other
than policing the streets, officers were humanized—no longer detached
from communities or viewed solely as part of the "system" seen by
many as so oppressive during the 1960s and 1970s. As members of a
union, for instance, police officers were situated as a group of
bargaining workers. This demystification of the profession could
similarly account for the wider range of image content observed.
Relatively few photographs of so-called "deviant" cops emerged in
this sample throughout the period under consideration. While photos
of these officers did not appear until the 1960s, they still
constitute a very small number of images. While the photographic
visibility of police deviance increased over the course of the 1960s
and 1970s and such photographs moved from being nonexistent to a
minor presence, this should not be interpreted as evidence of a
necessarily more corrupt policing institution. Articles dealing with
police deviance were printed prior to the 1960s. However, they did
not include photographs. Why this was the case is a question that
should be pursued.
Police Officers and the Media—Moving Forward and Looking Back
While this project has proven more suggestive than conclusive, it
opens up a range of questions and future avenues of
inquiry. Undoubtedly a larger sample of articles, drawn not only
from the extraordinary events that occurred throughout this period
but also "everyday" images, will help further contextualize the
findings within this paper. Although extraordinary events such as
the 1968 Democratic National Convention by no means constitute
archetypal police-community interactions, they do provide a lens
through which to view the media's response to moments of crisis. By
locating the extraordinary within the context of the "everyday," I
hope to further explore not only textual representations of police
officers but also the roles these social actors play in the
construction of such representations. What implications did media
representations carry for the police as well as the news
organizations dedicated to covering them?
By examining visual representations of police between 1950 and 1980,
a logical endpoint of what could be argued a really "long 1960s," how
the policies of the Reagan administration impacted policing
strategies and perspectives is a question to be addressed. Within a
present-day atmosphere in which names like Rodney King, Abner Louima,
and Amadou Diallo herald a particular interpretation of the
application of police power, it is crucial to understand these
moments within a broader template for covering police officers. How
did coverage of these incidents fit within the declining crime rates
of the 1990s? Was there a realignment with police in the wake of
September 11, 2001? As scholars have argued, September 11, 2001
signaled a moment for which "[n]ews organizations—together with their
sources—lacked a readymade `script' to tell their stories, a frame to
help them and their audiences comprehend the seemingly
incomprehensible." In the wake of such a catastrophic event, how
journalistic templates for covering incidents involving the police
were transformed remains a fundamental issue. However, establishing
an historical context within which to situate these contemporary
patterns in journalistic coverage is of utmost importance.
When dealing with the police, particularly during the 1960s and
1970s, precisely what consequences news media coverage carried for
public opinion is crucial to understanding how images of police
officers were received as well. While 61% of respondents to a
September 9, 1968 Harris poll claimed "organized crime" was a major
cause of a breakdown in law and order, followed by "Negroes who start
riots" at 59%, 42% of the sample cited "police brutality" as "hardly
a cause." Yet when such responses were broken down by race in
October 1968, only 10% of whites cited police brutality as a major
cause as opposed to 52% of blacks. While these numbers powerfully
reassert the existence of intense racial divisions, they similarly
beg the question of where the media fit into this story of influence
and consciousness-raising—an issue clearly worthy of closer scrutiny.
The use of newsmagazines to explore coverage of police officers
similarly raises the question of how local news translates
nationally. What makes an event newsworthy locally newsworthy on a
national scale? Greater attention needs to be placed upon media
interaction, subsequently locating institutions and individuals
within a context that does not simply leave the police as the object
of news organizations' decisions. This analysis of the visual
representations of police officers has reinforced the fact that
certain images should not be taken for granted. While the 1968
Democratic National Convention remains a potent memory for those who
witnessed or have subsequently viewed coverage of the event,
"physical action" did not constitute the norm of police
representation during the period under consideration. Repositioning
police officers historically as individuals and members of a
bureaucratic institution is thus a vital element when attempting to
situate them as social actors-- particularly within this contested
period in recent American history.
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Davis, F.J. "Crime news in Colorado newspapers." American Journal of
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------ , "Blacks in the News: Television, Modern Racism and Cultural
Quarterly 69 (1992): 341-361.
------ , "Representation and Reality in the Portrayal of Blacks on
Network Television News"
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American Journal of Political Science 24 (1980): 16-49.
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Control in Reality-Based Crime
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pressure: a discursive analysis of
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CA: Sage Publications, 1981.
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"Homicide reporting in
Chicago Dailies." Journalism Quarterly 71, 860-872.
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Quarterly 40 (1976): 239-244.
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effects of the media on
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`reality-based' police shows: A
content analysis." Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 38
(Spring 1994): 179-192.
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A Case Study of Winston-
Salem, 1967" Public Opinion Quarterly 3 (Fall 1969): 328-345.
B. Roshier. (1973) "The selection of crime news by the press." In
Stanley Cohen and Jock Young, eds.
The Manufacture of News: Social Problems, Deviance, and the Mass
Media Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1981.
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Goldberg, ed. Photography in
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New Mexico Press, 1981.
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Views" Public Opinion
Quarterly 45 (1981): 492-506.
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Sociology 79 (July 1973): 110-131.
"Special Report: `Best' Police Force vs. Worst Crime Wave." Newsweek
February 8, 1954: 50-3.
"The Battle of Chicago." Newsweek September 9, 1968: 24-37
"Lots of Law, Little Order." Newsweek September 9, 1968: 38-40.
"The Black Cop: A Man Caught in the Middle." Newsweek August 16, 1971: 19-20.
"Dementia in the Second City." Time September 6, 1968: 21-24.
"Police: Through a Fine Screen." Time September 13, 1968: 69.
"Pigs 24, freaks 5." Time October 5, 1970: 22.
 Norman Mailer, Siege of Chicago quoted in Allen J. Matusow, The
Unraveling of America : A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New
York: Harper & Row, 1986) 420.
 "The Battle of Chicago." Newsweek September 9, 1968: 24-37 and
"Lots of Law, Little Order." Newsweek September 9, 1968: 38-40.
 "Dementia in the Second City." Time September 6, 1968: 21-24.
 "Police: Through a Fine Screen." Time September 13, 1968: 69.
 Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil
War of the 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 221.
 Statistics quoted in Herbert J. Gans, Deciding What's News: A
Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time (New
York: Vintage Books, 1979) 220.
 Gans 4.
 Gans 5.
 Upon sampling, several cartoons appeared accompanying
text. However because editorial and/or political cartoons often are
not intended to represent the opinions of editors and journalists but
rather the stance of the individual artist, cartoons were not
specifically included within my analysis.
 Christopher P. Wilson, Cop Knowledge: Police Power and Cultural
Narrative in Twentieth-Century America (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2000).
 The distinction between latent and explicit use of force is
made in the coding of photographs drawn from the front pages of the
New York Times in Jessica M. Fishman's and Carolyn Marvin's study of
portrayals of violence. See Jessica M. Fishman and Carolyn Marvin,
"Portrayals of Violence and Group Difference in Newspaper
Photographs: Nationalism and Media" Journal of Communication 53
(March 2003): 32-44.
 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on
Photographies and Histories (Amherst: University of Massachusetts
Press, 1988) 87.
 Wilson 4.
 Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and
Brian Roberts, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and
Order (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc., 1978) 57.
 Hall et al. 57.
 Mark Fishman, "Crime Waves as Ideology." Social Problems 25
(June 1978): 538.
 Allan Sekula, "On the Invention of Photographic Meaning" in
Vicki Goldberg, ed. Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the
Present (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981) 453.
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New
York: Hill and Wang,1980) 28.
 Barthes 88-9.
 Tagg 63.
 Tagg 95.
 F.J. Davis, "Crime news in Colorado newspapers." American
Journal of Sociology 57 (1952): 325-330. Subsequent studies aiming to
challenge Davis were made by E.Terrence Jones, "The press as
metropolitan monitor." Public Opinion Quarterly 40 (1976); George E.
Antunes and Patricia A. Hurley, "The representation of criminal
events in Houston's two daily newspapers." Journalism Quarterly 54
(1977); Joseph F. Sheley and Cindy D. Ashkins, "Crime, Crime News,
and Crime Views." Public Opinion Quarterly 45 (1981). Doris A.
Graber, Crime News and the Public (New York: Praeger, 1980). One
branch of the content analysis literature has also come to focus upon
the representation of minorities within various media outlets. See,
for instance, David L. Paletz and Robert Dunn, "Press Coverage of
Civil Disorders: A Case Study of Winston-Salem, 1967." Public Opinion
Quarterly 3 (Fall 1969); John W.C. Johnstone, Darnell F. Hawkins, and
Arthur Michener, "Homicide Reporting in Chicago Dailies." Journalism
Quarterly 71 (1994): 860-872; Robert Entman, "Modern Racism and the
Images of Blacks in Local Television News." Critical Studies in Mass
Communication 7 (1990); Robert M. Entman, "Representation and Reality
in the Portrayal of Blacks on Network TV News" Journalism Quarterly
71 (Autumn 1994): 509-520; Travis L. Dixon, Cristina L. Azocar, and
Michael Casas, "The Portrayal of Race and Crime on Television Network
News." Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 47 (2003): 516.
 See Gans, Deciding What's News and Gaye Tuchman, "Making News
by Doing Work: Routinizing the Unexpected." American Journal of
Sociology 79 (July 1973).
 See, for instance, Connie Fletcher, "The semiotics of survival:
Street cops read the street." Howard Journal of Communication 4
(Summer/Fall 1992): 133-142; K. Frewin and K. Tuffin, "Police status,
conformity and internal pressure: a discursive analysis of police
culture" Discourse & Society 2 (April 1998): 173-185
 For more on reality-based television, see Jessica M. Fishman,
"The Populace and the Police: Models of Social Control in
Reality-Based Crime Television." Critical Studies in Mass
Communication 16 (1999): 268-288; Mark Fishman and Gray Cavender, ed.
Entertaining Crime: Television Reality Programs (New York: Aldine de
Gruyter, 1998); Mary Beth Oliver, "Portrayals of crime, race, and
aggression in `reality-based' police shows: A content analysis."
Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 38 (Spring 1994): 179-192.
 As Christopher Wilson notes, other so-called "police
ethnographies" emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, a product of fieldwork
on everyday police routines. One example is Albert Reiss, The Police
and the Public (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971). For more on
"police ethnographies" as a genre of scholarship, see Wilson 10.
 For more on the relationship between police units and
anti-communist efforts, see Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege:
Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1990).
 Wilson was appointed police chief of Chicago in 1960 by Mayor
Richard Daley after having served as a police officer in Berkeley.
 O.W. Wilson, Police Administration (New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company, Inc., 1950) 2.
 Wilson 3.
 Wilson 415.
 Wilson 416.
 Hazel Erskine, "The Polls: Causes of Crime." Public Opinion
Quarterly 38 (Summer, 1974): 290.
 "The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society: A Report by the
President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of
Justice" (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office,
February 1967) 91.
 Vicki Goldberg, The Power of Photography: How Photographs
Changed Our Lives (New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1991) 204.
 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1, 1968) 5.
 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 202.
 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 208.
 Several stories were included within the initial sample
relating to the Vancouver Police, for instance, as well as the British Police.
 Articles dealing with the United States' presence in Vietnam as
well as conflicts throughout the Middle East in 1970s, for instance,
were excluded from this analysis.
 "Special Report: `Best' Police Force vs. Worst Crime Wave."
Newsweek February 8, 1954: 51.
 Jeffrey Ian Ross, Making News of Police Violence: A Comparative
Study of Toronto and New York City with foreword by Donna C. Hale
(Westport: Praeger, 2000).
 Philadelphia's civilian review board, the Philadelphia Police
Advisory Board, was established in 1958. New York followed with the
establishment of the NY City Civilian Complaint Review Board in
1966. Other cities across the United States from New Orleans to
Chicago to Berkeley have since similarly established civilian review boards.
 Solely image content was used to locate photographs of police
officers within one of these six categories. The text of captions
did not figure into my analysis. However, within future studies I
intend to address these more contextual factors including, but not
limited to, captions, article placement, page location of the
article, and image size.
 According to Gaye Tuchman, the "what-a-story!" typification
represents an attempt on the part of newsmen to deal with all the
news that doesn't fit. For more on this categorization, see Tuchman,
"Making News By Doing Work." American Journal of Sociology 79 (July
 "Pigs 24, freaks 5." Time October 5, 1970: 22.
 For a breakdown of photographic images, see the appendix.
 Barbie Zelizer and Stuart Allan, eds. "Introduction: When
trauma shapes the news" in Journalism After September 11 with a
forward by Victor Navasky (New York: Routledge, 2002) 1.
 Hazel Erskine, "The Polls: Causes of Crime." Public Opinion
Quarterly 38 (Summer, 1974): 292.