4 tips for your next celebrity bust

As you prepare for your next tour on patrol, keep in mind that famous people come into pretty regular contact with law enforcement, and they’re just like everybody else — except they aren’t


If you patrol in a city not named New York or Los Angeles, you might rate your likelihood of running into a celebrity in your official capacity pretty low. But celebrity encounters with law enforcement can happen anywhere — singers and musicians tour all over the place, and movies and TV shows are often shot “on location” for protracted periods of time across this great land.

Just ask the Honolulu cops who booked Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost) on DUI charges back in 2007 or the Maryland State Trooper who got soaked with one of Justin Bieber’s water balloons in 2009. Ask the St. Petersburg (Fla.) officers who had to deal with rapper Machine Gun Kelly in 2012, whose violent antics in a bar brawl are in the headlines this week. He allegedly almost took a bouncer’s finger off with a thrown liquor bottle. 

When you make an arrest that makes headlines on TMZ and Entertainment Tonight, things can be a little (okay, a lot) different for you and/or your agency. It’s a situation worth preparing for. Here’s a look — hopefully humorous but also helpful — at some of the things the academy probably didn’t teach you about handling a high-profile arrestee.

Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan have had infamous run-ins with the law. (AP Images)
Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan have had infamous run-ins with the law. (AP Images)

1. Maintain Professionalism
It’s natural to be thrown a bit by the presence of a celebrity, but don’t let it throw you off your game — you’re a cop, not a 13-year-old kid at a “Twilight” movie premiere. Process the situation and handle the issue just as you would with any other.

Even if your arrestee is as smoking-hot as Carmen Electra, do not — repeat DO NOT! — succumb to the temptation to take a “selfie” with her (unless you want to begin a new career in loss prevention). 

Likewise, if you end up with an indignant celebrity who is A.) a washed-up has-been, or B.) really only a celebrity in their mind, try to keep a straight face because snickering may appear unprofessional. 

In all seriousness, even if “don’t take arrestee selfies” may seem a tad obvious, a celebrity arrest runs the risk of being put under the microscope, and any perceived preferential treatment will not reflect well on you in retrospect. Know that your arrest may have a viewing audience of millions, and ensure that when people see you on TV and computer screens across the world, they say something like, “That cop is awesome.” 

There’s a good likelihood that it may end up being the event for which YOU become famous. It will make the news. It will “go viral” on the Internet. You may end up a hashtag. For about 15 minutes — maybe longer, depending on the severity / silliness of the offense — you’ll be almost as well-known as they are.

The celebrity arrest is a great opportunity to showcase your professionalism. 

2. Expect Uneven, Erratic, Indignant Behavior
Early in the arrest — about when the cuffs go on — you’ll hear some version of the line, “Do you have any idea who I am?” It will be quickly followed by “I’ll be out in an hour,” and then “I can buy everything you own in cash.”

All of the above can also be said about some random wealthy person who thinks they’re above you and above the law, but the perception of self-entitlement runs think in the bloodstream of people who’ve “made it” in the entertainment industry.

Beyond their words, their actions can be incredibly unpredictable. Kiefer Southerland famously tackled a Christmas tree and Shia LaBeouf was tossed from the audience attending a performance of Cabaret because of his disruptive behavior. 

By the way, if you're fortunate enough to be arresting Mel Gibson, I really hope you’re wearing a body-camera because something completely boneheaded will come out of his pie hole (and it's going to be epic). 

Video evidence of celebrities behaving badly (while you maintain cool, professional behavior) will help to cover your ass in the event your violator accuses you of misconduct. This is equally true for encounters with non-celebrities. Let them spit their vitriol on camera. 

3. Solid Practice of Policy and Procedure
Speaking of CYA, if your celebrity bust begins as a traffic stop, please have your FST skills at their sharpest, because you may also be looking at a DUI. It’s entirely possible that DUI may be the most likely way you’ll encounter a celebrity in your community. Ensure that the dash cam video (your close-up!) captures a textbook-perfect FST. They’re likely to fight it. Your skills will prevail in court.

By the way, if you impound the vehicle on that car stop, you should do a meticulous inventory, because illegal drugs may be present. Back before he was a big star, Tim Allen was arrested for possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine. He actually served two and a half years for that. Good collar. 

If you’ve got a serious offense like murder or attempted murder — such as Robert Blake and/or Phil Spector — build a bulletproof case or the trial will tank (possibly spectacularly). Phil Spector is not aging well in prison, but Robert Blake was found not guilty of murder.

Be squared away. Period, end of story. 

4. Prepare for the Unexpected
This brings me to the fourth and final tip. Above all, be prepared with sound officer safety techniques. Some celebrities famously love their firearms — from former gang-bangers and drug dealers to former child stars — and in some cases, they’ve actually done some training with them for a movie or TV role in which they need to appear as well-trained as you are. Some are even well versed in MMA and other martial arts skills.

Combine a propensity toward violence, some booze and/or illegal drugs, and some of that abovementioned feeling of entitlement, and you’ve got a potentially problematic (and dangerous) situation. 

Stay focused. Use good contact/cover tactics. Call for backup. Go provide backup if you’re not the primary officer. Watch the hands. Watch your six. Remember the plus-one rule. All that stuff. 

As you prepare for your next tour, keep in mind that famous people come into pretty regular contact with law enforcement, and they’re just like everybody else — except they aren’t. 

When you make that celebrity collar, do the job, move on to the next call, and bask — briefly — in the happy knowledge you’ve got a story for the ages.

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