Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts


Lifespan and Digital Communication

Committee Director

Avi Santo

Committee Member

Tim Anderson

Committee Member

Gary Beck


The Clergy On Patrol (COP) program is a collaboration between the Norfolk Police Department and community faith leaders of the Norfolk Urban Renewal Center. This study analyzed themes and patterns in the communicative relationship between police and clergy members, using a semiotic approach and the scholarship of intergroup communication. Additionally, an added secondary analysis of media coverage helped focus the results of the study using themes. This thesis merged the two semiotic analyses to examine a style of community policing that has lacked a closer eye.

This thesis guided itself by the argument that clergy-police collaborative programs structure themselves around the assumption that faith-based organizations (FBOs) will provide community connection. Further, it is the assumption, by media and other agencies, that the presence of faith leaders taking part in police engagements is a positive method of rectifying issues of trust and miscommunication between community and law enforcement. A primary focus of this study serves to highlight this assumption in media texts, which contrasts with perceptions of participating members within the COP program in Norfolk. The study further argues the aspirational goals of the program outshine its current development, while still highlighting positive aspects of these programs.

Guided by themes and principles in media communication studies, this thesis attempted to determine common communication problems hindering the collaborative efforts of clergy and police. Through the semiotic analyses, the result of this study found that COP and other programs framed a positive relationship between clergy and police. This relationship, like any, revealed to be less cohesive then speculated in the media. However, the accounts of clergy reaffirm a positive impact on the community despite a lack of empirical evidence. There is an even greater need to determine new ways of community engagement that may aid in reconnecting our men and women in uniform with their communities.


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