Police, media and politician perspectives on social media generated police scandal

Dr Justin Ellis6

6University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Despite the use of empirical police scandal as the basis for a range of popular media representations of policing, rarely have criminologists explored scandal as a concept or its attempted management by criminal justice organisations. Using Mawby’s police scandal framework this presentation considers the unique characteristics of a social media generated police scandal and the implications for police working under such circumstances. Through 30 in-depth interviews with sworn and unsworn police, media and politicians the presentation provides a first-hand perspective on the impact of the police scandal generated by a YouTube video of police excessive force at the 2013 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. The unpredictability of social media and the rules of disclosure on police organisational responses can put police who work closely with politically well organised minority communities in a difficult position. The presentation considers the boundaries of authentic police rhetoric in the context of increasingly casualised police language on social media platforms and the increased practice by mainstream media of ‘opinion journalism’.


Dr Justin Ellis  is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Newcastle and a member of the Institute of Criminology, Sydney Law School. His research examines the impact of digital technologies on public trust and confidence in institutions with a current focus on police and minority communities. His scholarship has been published in high-ranking internationally peer-reviewed journal Policing and Society and award-winning anthropology publication Kyoto Journal. Justin has over five years’ experience researching and lecturing in Criminology at three universities – the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney.

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