Advertising Underlying Assumptions: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Militarized and Community-Oriented Artifacts in Police Recruitment Videos
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Recent scholarly and media attention claims the United States policing institution is growing more militarized in behavior and values. With this renewal of attention towards police militarization, common recommendations have been for police departments to adopt community-oriented policing values and strategies as a way to decrease militarization. However, this assumption has not been empirically tested, and the concepts of police militarization and community policing are vague, lack scholarly consensus regarding definitions and operationalization, and – consequently – are difficult to empirically assess. The current study establishes a novel method through which to empirically study police militarization and community policing, specifically through a theory-driven quantitative content analysis of police recruitment videos. Recruiting literature demonstrates that recruitment videos act as advertisements for organizations, advertising the organization’s self-depiction and depiction of the occupation. The present study examines these depictions and their variation by analyzing the artifacts in law enforcement agencies’ recruiting advertisements. The first stage of the current study describes the collection of themes and artifacts from a sample of the 200 largest municipal and county law enforcement agencies’ recruitment videos. Data from the quantitative content analysis of these videos’ themes demonstrate that militarized and community-oriented themes and artifacts are observable in recruitment videos, and principal components analysis results demonstrate that these themes load into separate “militarized” and “community-oriented” factors. The second stage of the study uses the scores and scales developed from the principal components analyses as outcome variables to assess the effect of theorized predictors of militarization and community policing as predictors of video themes. Ordinal logistic regression models find a positive relationship between drug crime rates and videos with high militarization scores, and negative relationships between violent crime rates, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, and agencies that incorporate collaborative problem solving into officers’ evaluation criteria, and videos with high militarization scores. No significant relationships were found between predictors and videos with high community-oriented scores. The study concludes with a discussion of the findings, as well as many avenues of future research utilizing content analysis of law enforcement recruitment videos.
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