Arresting Images: Crime and Policing in Front of the Television Camera


198 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3682-1
DDC 302.23'45





Reviewed by Sarah Treleaven

Sarah Treleaven is a Toronto-based freelance writer and reviewer.


Aaron Doyle’s study of broadcast images of crime and policing argues
that powerful institutions like the police harness television to further
their interests and legitimize their activities. Doyle posits, quite
rationally, that television is not an inherently objective medium;
television, as often as other mediums, is exploited by those in a
position to influence coverage. He contends that television does not
merely convey events to audiences, but shapes the events as well.

Doyle, an assistant professor of sociology at Carleton University,
draws on four contemporary case studies to illustrate his position, and
each case is a nice balance of theory and practical example. The first
case study focuses on the “reality TV” series Cops, which
incorporates storytelling devices that promote a particular perspective
of policing while simultaneously naturalizing the images presented. The
second focuses on surveillance footage and home videos, which create
high-profile cases and draw attention to particular crimes simply
because they have been caught on tape. The third examines coverage of
Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot, in which the police were clear
aggressors in footage taken, yet after-the-fact verbal interpretations
were weighed more heavily than the footage itself. And finally the
fourth case scrutinizes the tactics of Greenpeace, a group known for
publicity-grabbing campaigns often altered to fit a particular medium.

Doyle’s work is both academic and accessible; he draws on a series of
conventional models for media scrutiny to compare and contrast findings
related to his case studies. His findings are valuable not so much for
their conclusions (which will come as a surprise to few), but for his
thorough analysis and comprehensive supporting evidence. Given that the
media are broadcasting an increasingly large number of “real” (or
“actuality”) incidents of crime and policing, Arresting Images is an
important and highly relevant effort that underscores just how powerful
the impact of television really can be.


Doyle, Aaron., “Arresting Images: Crime and Policing in Front of the Television Camera,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,