Online Readers’ Comments as Popular Texts: Public Opinions of Paid Duty Policing in Canada


  • Alex Luscombe Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Carleton University
  • Kevin Walby University of Winnipeg, Department of Criminal Justice
  • Randy K. Lippert Criminology and Sociology, University of Windsor



paid duty policing, readers’ comments, public opinions, discourse analysis, content analysis


Background  Despite paid-duty policing and associated public opinions being an increasingly controversial topic in Canadian news media, there has been limited research about them.

Analysis  This article combines discourse and content analyses to examine the public opinions towards paid-duty policing in Canada expressed in the online readers’ comment sections of news articles. Conceptualizing comments as popular texts, the article discerns several themes, including police impartiality, reputation, expertise, and performance. Most comments centered on the economics of paid duty.

Conclusion and implications  The article concludes by considering why economics prevailed over other themes and reflects on core concepts in the literature on online comment boards, including interactivity and counter-publics.

Keywords  Public opinions; Readers’ comments; Discourse analysis; Content analysis; Audience reception; Media theory; Policing

Contexte  Il y a eu peu de recherches sur les services rémunérés de la police ou sur l’opinion publique envers ceux-ci, même s’ils deviennent un sujet de plus en plus controversé dans les médias canadiens.

Analyse  Nous effectuons des analyses de discours et de contenu pour examiner les sections de commentaires en ligne accompagnant certains articles sur l’actualité. En envisageant ces commentaires comme textes populaires, nous discernons divers thèmes relatifs à la police, y compris son impartialité, sa réputation, sa compétence et sa performance. La plupart des commentaires font mention de l’économie des services rémunérés.

Conclusion et implications  Nous terminons notre article en considérant pourquoi l’économie a prévalu sur d'autres thèmes dans les commentaires en ligne et en nous interrogeant sur des concepts centraux dans la recherche sur ce sujet tels que l’interactivité et les contre-publics.

Mots clés  Opinions publiques; Commentaires des lecteurs; Analyse du discours; Analyse de contenu; Réception publique; Théorie des médias; Maintien de l’ordre

Author Biographies

Alex Luscombe, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Carleton University

Alex Luscombe has a Master of Arts from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University. His research interests include military sociology, criminology and law. His SSHRC-funded Master’s research, which incorporates records released under the United States’ Freedom of Information Act, investigates strategies of public deception in an Anglo-American Cold War intelligence operation. Alex’s work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, where he used access to information disclosures to research the policing of Occupy Ottawa, and in Police Practice & Research: An International Journal, where he assessed the usefulness of access to information requests for research on national security agencies. His work also appears in Municipal Corporate Security in International Context (Routledge 2015).

Kevin Walby, University of Winnipeg, Department of Criminal Justice

Kevin Walby is Associate Professor and Chancellor’s Research Chair, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Winnipeg. He has published in British Journal of Criminology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Security Journal, Policing and Society, Social and Legal Studies, Crime, Law and Social Change, Law, Culture and the Humanities, Law and Social Inquiry, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies, Canadian Journal of Law and Society, Canadian Review of Sociology, Qualitative Inquiry, Sociology, Current Sociology, International Sociology, Social Movement Studies, and more. He is author of Touching Encounters: Sex, Work, and Male-for-Male Internet Escorting (2012, University of Chicago Press). He is co-author with R. Lippert of Municipal Corporate Security in International Context (2014, Routledge). He is co-editor of Emotions Matter: a Relational Approach to Emotions with Alan Hunt and D. Spencer (2012, University of Toronto Press) and Brokering Access: Power, Politics, and Freedom of Information Process in Canada with M. Larsen (2012, UBC Press). He has co-edited with R. Lippert Policing Cities: Urban Securitization and Regulation in the 21st Century (2013, Routledge) and Corporate Security in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice in International Perspective (2014, Palgrave Macmillan). He is co-author with R. Lippert of Municipal Security in International Context (Routledge, 2015). He is editor of the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.

Randy K. Lippert, Criminology and Sociology, University of Windsor

Randy K. Lippert is Professor of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Windsor specializing in policing, security, and urban governance. He is author or co-author of more than 50 refereed articles and book chapters and is co-editor of several recent interdisciplinary, international collections: Sanctuary Practices in International Perspective (Routledge, 2014) (with S. Rehaag), Policing Cities: Urban Securitization and Regulation in a 21st Century World (Routledge, 2013) (with K. Walby), Eyes Everywhere: the Global Growth of Camera Surveillance (Routledge, 2012) (with D. Lyon and A. Doyle), Corporate Security in the 21st Century (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2014) (with K. Walby), and Governing Practices: Governmentalities, Neo-Liberalism, and the Ethnographic Imaginary (forthcoming, University of Toronto Press) (with M. Brady). He has co-edited since 2007 five issues of socio-legal, security, migration, and surveillance journals. He is author of Sanctuary, Sovereignty, Sacrifice: Canadian Incidents, Power, and Law (University of British Columbia Press, 2006), and co-author with K. Walby of Municipal Security in International Context (Routledge, 2015). He is debates editor for the journal Surveillance and Society.