Does public criticism erode trust in the police? The case of Jari Aarnio in the Finnish news media and its effects on the public’s attitudes towards the police

Juha Tapio Kääriäinen, Pekka Isotalus, Thomassen Gunnar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    A significant part of the general public’s observations and image
    concerning the police comes through the mass media. It has been
    assumed that one factor affecting the level of trust is the way the
    media handles the police. This article describes the media uproar
    that arose in Finland in November 2013 about police misconduct,
    and its effects on the public trust in the police. Two hypotheses
    were tested in the study: (a) negative publicity always decreases
    trust, and so, too, in this case; and (b) a change in trust is affected
    by the public’s independent interpretation of the publicity battle, in
    which case criticism might also increase trust. The study materials
    comprise the news coverage concerning the uproar and four opinion
    surveys collected after it occurred. The first survey was conducted
    immediately after the press conference of the case in week 48/2013
    and the other ones in three-week intervals. The results show that
    following the uproar, compared to the earlier results of the European
    Social Survey, trust in the police did not decrease—on the contrary, it
    increased slightly. Our results suggest that in this case a large part of
    the audience has taken, to use the term of Stuart Hall, the oppositional
    position when interpreting negative news about the police.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)70-85
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Fields of Science

    • 513 Law
    • 5141 Sociology

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