Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Cops Gone Bad

One of the most controversial news stories of the 20th century occurred on the night of March 3, 1991 when Rodney King and two friends were driving back from a night of watching a basketball game and drinking at a friend's house in L.A. King, who was driving, had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 (nearly two an a half times the legal limit in California). King refused to pull over, continuing the chase which involved several police cars and a helicopter. After eventually pulling him over, Officer Koon ordered his men to strike King with batons (56 times) and to taser him.

Of course, there are more elements to the story in the police's defense, such as King's alleged bizarre behavior of giggling and grabbing his buttocks at the police, however most of the population reacted to this news story with horror and disgust towards the policemen's actions. In fact, the coverage of this story triggered the Los Angeles riots of 1992 which were strongly linked to civil rights issues of racism (since the cops were white and Rodney was black).

This particular story was extremely popular and was covered by all news television stations, newspapers, magazines, and radio stations because of its obvious controversial subject matter. But what makes it even more controversial and attractive to the American public is the fact that it involves police officers, who are of high ranking and are regarded as the protectors of justice, who are now being shown as the criminal. According to Surette, "the general rule is the higher the rank, the more media interest in the case. Cases involving police corruption and justice system personnel in general are especially attractive to the media" (71).

To make this story even more attractive to the public, a video of the entire incident was recorded by a witness which was broadcasted on a local TV station. Because "pictures are preferred over text" (Surette, 68) the video made audiences even more interested and gave the story a sort of sensationalism or thematic value.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great example of how divisive media can be. What was at least partially a ploy to push papers and sell ad-space led to a series of riots which killed 53 people and caused an upwards of $1,000,000,000 in damages.