What 20 misconceptions on TV have taught us about policing
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A question posted recently on Quora asked, "What are some differences between the way crime and law enforcement are portrayed in movies or on TV versus reality?" PoliceOne columnist and retired police officer Tim Dees provided his answer, below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in our comments section.
1. TV cops always answer the phone by speaking their last names, and nothing else. They seldom say, "goodbye" or anything customary at the end of the call. They just hang up. I've never known a real person to do this.
2. A person's complete pedigree can be obtained by typing only their name into a police computer. Even if your name is Aloysius Dingleberry, there is probably more than one person with that name. If the name is something more common, like "Joe Brown," there will be thousands.
3. TV computer hackers, especially those employed by the police, can instantly tap into any video feed, satellite imagery, internal database or record ever created by man, even though the record exists only on paper and has never been digitized.
4. TV cops involved in deadly force incidents immediately return to duty, often without so much as filing a report.
5. Many TV cops carry their sidearms without a round chambered, so they can draw the gun and dramatically rack the slide immediately before entering a dangerous situation.
6. TV cops can transfer between law enforcement agencies totally unrelated to one another (e.g. Atlanta PD to NYPD) and pick up their careers where they left off, usually starting as detectives on their first day.
7. Cop show bombs always have large digital displays showing exactly when the bomb will go off and exposed lights so the viewer will know the device is a bomb and that it's activated. No one ever sees these lights until they go looking specifically for them.
8. People without any apparent source of regular income have access to a steady stream of military-grade firearms, electronics and explosives.
9. Rookies will be involved in a shooting on their very first day. Experienced cops will get shot no more than three days from their planned retirement date.
10. You can be knocked unconscious from a blow to the head with a gun or other heavy object and suffer no more than a bruise and a headache.
11. If the show is about a federal agent, federal agents all wear expensive suits and are pompous, incompetent [expletive].
12. TV cops, especially women, can carry and conceal large handguns, extra magazines, handcuffs and badges under the most fashionable outfits, and you will never see them until the moment before they haul them out.
13. One TV cop can tell another to obtain a search warrant, even though the cop doing the procurement knows little about the premises to be searched and cannot serve as the affiant for the warrant. The process typically takes about 20 minutes.
14. Women married to TV cops are especially prone to being killed by vengeful criminals or drunk drivers.
15. Cars involved in TV accidents often fly through the air for no apparent reason before crashing, then explode spontaneously.
16. Every TV law enforcement agency has at least one safe house ready at all times.
17. Sheet metal ventilation ducts are strong enough to support the weight of a large man crawling through them, are completely unobstructed by fans or baffles and are accessible by grilles that are easily removed without tools. This is true even in secure holding facilities.
18. A TV cop can be shot or stabbed repeatedly and still be fully functional, but he will cry out loud when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
19. TV cops always find parking immediately available just outside the entrance of whatever building they are visiting.
20. Any TV cop can pick a lock with no more than a bent paperclip.