My Police Hero: Joe Friday, T.J. Hooker and fictional teachers of real life police values
My childhood admiration for the man in uniform grew beyond the television set
Editor’s Note: Here, Andrew Hawkes recounts the story of the TV cops who made him want to be a police officer. We want your story too. As a kid, did you idolize a fictional character on TV or was there a hometown cop you looked up to? Send us your short stories (and pictures too, if you have them) about your Police Hero — the cop who inspires you in your life as a law enforcer. By entering your story, you’ll be eligible to win a VIEVU LE2 Body Worn Video Camera, or one of five prize packs. Entries are being accepted now through Friday, July 26 — click here for more details.
I can remember countless hours spent as a kid in my pajamas in front of the “boob tube” (as my mother would call it), watching all my childhood Hollywood heroes.
Those heroes of mine always had one thing in common: they were all cops.
There was nothing better than watching Sergeant Joe Friday interrogate a suspect, or T.J. Hooker get into a massive foot chase, or watch a high-speed motorcycle pursuit starring Officers John and Ponch.
Oh, and the Firefighters...
And let’s not forget Emergency! I always wondered why those crazy firemen would rush into those fires while the cops would pull up in the patrol cars and block off the intersections. I guess in the end I thought cop cars were cooler than fire trucks.
But my childhood admiration for the man in uniform grew beyond the television set. I remember going to the mall with my parents. Whenever I saw a police officer, I would always ask my mother if I could go shake his or her hand.
I would perk up when my dad drove by an officer on a traffic stop or working an accident. It was just something about that shiny badge, that “piece” on his hip, the black leather belt with all that “stuff” on it, the red and blue lights on the marked car... I thought it was the best.
When I was 18, I went on my first real life ride out, and it was settled after that. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be a police officer, so I set my sights on that goal.
Then, after I became an officer, reality set in.
I soon came to realize that real-world interrogations don’t go as smooth as Sgt. Friday’s did — and the crimes are much more gruesome and perverted than the car burglar on the TV.
And you know what else? Foot chases didn’t usually end with the suspect giving up and being handcuffed, and my uniform usually wasn’t spotlessly pressed and my hair still in place like T.J.’s was.
Car chases ended in fatalities and sometimes ended with the bad guy actually getting away. That wasn’t supposed to happen now, was it?
Replaced by Real Officers
Even though the lives of Hollywood cops and the reality of being a cop in real life may be grossly different, the TV police officer still molded in me the core values of being in law enforcement: serving and protecting and bringing the bad guys to justice, and doing all of the above with pride and honor.
As I advanced through my career, those TV heroes were replaced by real-life officers. Those officers — those friends of mine — who lost their lives wearing that badge.
Those veteran cops that took the time to give a young rookie advice instead of avoiding me because I was so gung ho I couldn’t see straight. And also my peers who have had my back through countless dangerous encounters.
Those guys are my heroes now.
As the years have gone by, when I find myself flipping through the channels on a Saturday morning or lying in bed at night, I always stop when I come across old reruns of my favorite cop shows.
Now I giggle on the inside when I watch a massive shootout between the cops and the bad guys — the only thing that gets hit with a bullet is the gun in the hand of the bad guy!
“Wow, that’s funny!” I think to myself as I take a glance at that pair of uniform pants I have framed and hanging on the wall — the ones with the bullet hole through the pants leg.
I reach over to turn off the lamp on the night stand, and I think to myself as I stare at the back of my eyelids and fall to sleep with a childish grin on my face, “I should have been Batman.”
Click here to enter your own story about the officer who made you want to become a cop.