The Politicisation of Law & Order
What the ‘real’ issue is
- Are we suffering from a ‘crisis in law and order’ or a crisis of perspective.
o Crime rate increases?
o More dangerous crimes?
o Is there a need for more police?
o Is there a need for tougher sentencing?
o Have our perspectives been shaped to believe this?
Hogg and Brown
- Crime is sensationalised and misinterpreted.
- Crime is removed from its social context.
- Fear and social division are promoted.
- Punitive strategies are too readily relied upon.
- E.g. “rape sentences in Victoria too lenient”.
- Allow us to justify the punitive strategies because media makes us see
them as a criminal and that they deserve it.
- Punitive strategies are a quick fix.
- Crime wasn’t a prominent concern until 1989.
- This adoption of law and order came from the 1964 US election.
o Barry Goldwater – US Senator – Republican party candidate.
o Conservative in the campaign.
o Introduced the ‘law and order’ slogan:
Crime is a serious problem.
o Tougher stance required at all levels.
o Crime at the forefront of concern – lost election but the agenda
was taken on by Western countries anyway.
o Product of civil dissent – led to crime.
o Civil war (to all be equal) against government saw a shift towards
controlling people in society and maintaining social order.
Law and order today
- Become part of everyday politics.
- Key feature of campaigns.
- Fused with federal and international politics.
o Status of asylum seekers and refugees.
o Illegal immigration.
- At state level:
o Increases in police powers.
o Strengthening and broadening of laws.
o Harsher sentencing.
Law and order common sense assumptions (Hogg and Brown) - Contribute to this crisis of perspective that they believe exists in relation
to crime and understandings of crime and how to deal with it.
- Assumptions that help advance a law and order agenda and help shape
our perceptions around what the best way to respond to crime is.
- Prey on people’s insecurities and fear of crime.
1. Soaring crime rates.
- Serious crime problems – the idea that we are being inflicted with
unprecedented crimes at a serious level.
o Reported in opinion polls and surveys, feature articles or
- Journalists refer to the crime clock – e.g. a robbery occurs every 1.2
- The uniformity of assumptions and language use make it very difficult to
challenge the claims in anyway without appearing to be downplaying the
seriousness of the crime situation.
- Even though crime rates appear to be decreasing, a negative flag can still
be waved to help keep the concern that crime is soaring.
- E.g. “crime rates soar but assaults continue to rise”.
2. Law and order nostalgia.
- “worse than ever’.
- Idea that crime is at an unprecedented level in society.
- We’ve never experienced anything like it before so we need new,
effective, punitive ways to deal with crime.
- E.g. “there is a new climate of violence in Australia, the kind not
experienced by earlier generations”.
3. The shape of things to come.
- Comparing Australia with others that have similar ideals and values but
where there is a perception that there is a really significant amount of
o Particularly UK and America.
o Often placed in the context of gang related violence due to their
association in US culture.
- Twist with this approach – we look at what punitive strategies have been
used in these place and how they’ve been seen to effectively solve the
crime problem e.g. push towards zero tolerance in policing.
4. The CJS does not protect citizens.
- Soft on offenders.
- Associated with prisoners – luxury in prisons.
- Effects our understanding of prisons and shapes our perceptions.
5. We need more police with greater powers.
- Idea that we need more police on the streets and for them to have greater
- Problem – very little discussion about police priorities and how it will
actually contribute to solving the crime problem, need to add the
resources as well.
- Simple, quick fix response to crime.
6. We need tougher penalties.