A question posted recently on Quora asked, “What technologies commonplace on cop shows like "CSI" and "Law and Order" do real-life cops wish they had?” Former police officer Justin Freeman gave his opinion on the topic, below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in our comments section.
Just off the top of my head:
- “Minority Report”-esque Computer Workstations: What we actually use are either laptops (in patrol vehicles) or plain Jane vanilla desktop computers. And if one is ganked up, either fix it or move - IT response, at least where I worked, was glacial.
- Same-Day Forensics Processing: Lab results take weeks to months, even for something as simple as verifying that suspected marijuana is, in fact, marijuana. These quick-flip DNA analyses are fantasy. Fingerprints can be done quicker in some cases, but not most other forensics.
- Rush Requests on Forensics Analysis: This might be different in a gargantuan department like the NYPD, but forensics requests got shipped off to a state lab here, and as far as I know the material going in was FIFO. Nobody on the department had any pull with the lab to leapfrog material from other agencies.
- Non-Standardized Patrol Vehicles: I have to suppress a groan every time the “CSI: Miami” crew pulls up in a mint Hummer H2, or when Danny is running code in a brand new Camaro in “Hawaii Five-O.” In the real world, if you're a patrol officer you're probably in a marked patrol vehicle with a lightbar; if you're a patrol supervisor/commander or a detective, you're in an unmarked patrol car. Homicide divisions may have different vehicles, but they're not going to be glitzy - they'll range from late model Ford Explorers up to gutted and converted Econoline vans, decommissioned ambulances, or freight truck-shaped jobs.
- Prescient Partners: I once watched Detective Goren on “L&O:CI” blow a case wide open, if I remember correctly, by noting accelerated molar wear on one side of the victim's mouth, which he claimed was significant because people tend to chew on the side of their dominant hand. Or something to that effect. Horatio Caine on “CSI: Miami” is good for these bizarre epiphanies, too.
- Partners, Period: In over two years of patrol, I rode in an Adam unit (two officers to a vehicle) exactly one time. We just didn't have staffing or budgets for it. Sheriff's Office deputies had it even worse - not only did they not ride Adam, their backup was often miles away, and they routinely had to make arrests by themselves, sometimes with a car full of people.