Sonya Bittner

PhD Sociology

Sonya BittnerOne aspect of policing deviance that remains shrouded in mystery is the role of Media Relations Officers. Having noticed a trend in declining public confidence in policing, Sonya Bittner is examining both quantitative and qualitative data to better understand the claims-making capacities of Media Relations Officers.

“Media Relations Officers play an integral role in police communications and image building. They filter what goes out and what stays in. I want to understand how they construct and convey social problems to the public.” She explains the current disconnect between fear of crime and actual events, noting the disproportion. Sonya will examine how the police may contribute to the disconnect by filtering what they report to the public. Sonya was attracted to UWaterloo Sociology by the reputation of her supervisor, Jennifer Schulenberg. “She is the reason I came here. As one of the leading researchers in the policing field in Canada, Professor Schulenberg was recommended to Sonya by her previous advisor at the University of Guelph. The two have now worked together on several projects involving police studies. “I cannot speak highly enough of her,” says Sonya.

But she also benefits from other expertise in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies. “There are a lot of very renowned and well established scholars in the department which is very unique to Waterloo. There are professors who are known around the world in their respective areas,” Sonya explains.  “I am really impressed by this department; it is nice to have so many excellent resources to turn to.” Sonya also appreciates Waterloo’s diversity: “I really like it here. The campus is very culturally diverse as is the department. There is a wide variety of research areas, more so than at other schools.”

December 2013 Megan Scarborough

University of Waterloo

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