Margaret Beare of York University in Toronto has written for many years on the “selling” of the police.
Beare’s profile begins as follows:
Her PhD dissertation, involving a study of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force from 1957 to 1987, was titled The Selling of the Police. Beare examined the rhetoric of policing – the language and the arguments used by police, consciously and unconsciously, publicly and privately, to engender a sense of danger or hysteria from often innocuous circumstances.
In a variety of venues, Beare has criticized exaggerated rhetoric about crime, attributing the situation to a combination of politicians, the police force and the media. Her point is not that there is no crime – only that the response is “incommensurate or inappropriate”:
Beare doesn’t throw all the blame at the police. “The packaging of the argument varies,” she says. However, says Beare, it involves a partnership among politicians, the police force and the media. She also isn’t saying that a threat doesn’t exist, simply that the response to it is often incommensurate or inappropriate.
Why does this happen? Beare argues, “When you have a political motivation around a notion of dangerousness, the police will buy into it. But it’s also really advantageous to them because it means they will receive more resources, a higher profile and media attention.” Why is this bad? One of the issues, Beare contends, is the resultant misallocation of government resources to combat the perceived threat.
Beare’s most recent book is entitled Honouring Social Justice: Honouring Dianne Martin, dedicated to late Osgoode Professor Dianne Martin, who contributed a chapter which contained the following sentence in a footnote (a point that caught my eye and which I may return to):
McCormack Jr was Gordon Junger’s partner at the time [of the 1989 Junger scandal] and implicated in the  52 Division shakedown scandal.
McCormack Jr was in the news during Climategate. A selection of “private” telephone conversations involving McCormack and other Toronto police officers was printed in the Toronto Star (here). All charges against McCormack and associates were recently stayed (a legal term for being terminated) – a decision that has left a sour taste in Toronto.
I mention Beare’s work on a climate blog because there seem some obvious parallels in the sociology and rhetoric.