Perspectives of Policing: An Analysis of the Discursive Constructions of Policing, Race, and Criminal Justice in the United States
ForfatterBurian, Matthew Stephen
This thesis is an analysis of the competing discursive constructions of policing, race, and criminal justice in the United States. I identify two main competing discourses active in this field, a Liberal Individualist Discourse, and a Social Collectivist Discourse. I explore the way these two discourses construct the three areas in focus and argue that the Liberal Individualist Discourse has led to the implementation of ineffective and counterproductive public safety policies and masks systemic abuses and biases. Using data gathered from interviews with police officers and their critics, I analyze how different parties discursively construct three different areas. First, I look at discursive explanations for the causes of crime and analyze how these explanations position police officers and policymakers to implement certain strategies to prevent crime. The Liberal Discourse constructs crime as the result of rational choices, and positions policymakers to implement deterrence strategies of crime control, while the Social Discourse constructs crime as the result of societal failures and a lack of social programs. Second, I look at how the role of race, bias, and racism in the criminal justice system and U.S. society in general is defined and what explanation this definition provides for the overrepresentation of Black Americans in arrests, prisons, and police shootings. The Liberal Discourse disconnects individuals from race though a discourse of colorblind individualism, masking individual and systemic biases. In contrast, the Social Discourse defines race as a relevant social category that affects an individual’s life. Finally, I look at how different actors frame police conduct and interactions between police and the community, focusing on when and why police use lethal force, and how they are (or are not) held accountable for unnecessary uses of lethal force. The Liberal Discourse frames the use of lethal force as rare, usually justified events and constructs the criminal justice system as able to impartially dispense justice on these matters. The Social Discourse frames police use of lethal force as rampant and brutal, and highlights biases in the criminal justice system that make holding police officers accountable for misconduct difficult, if not impossible.
ForlagUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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