In everyday life, we all experience literary, televised, or motion picture encounters with the police. It is impossible to mention, or analyse, the police as an entity without being assailed by innumerable images, emotions, and media-informed stereotypes. How can we, as sociologists of the police, include this powerful imagery in our analyses? How can we study this media double, whose influence is so hard to quantify but so easy to observe in the everyday relations of officers with their own professional activity and with the public?
Elements of answers in a paper for Penal Issues (december 2012) starting from the observation that physical presence and the self-presentation efforts of police officers in the street are necessarily caught up by symbolic elements rooted in the media-staged spectacle of the police. Training courses for Swiss officers say nothing about the mythology of the police, yet it affects the way officers behave in front of TV or press photographers’ cameras or the smartphones of citizenreporters.