TV is riddled with police shows that unrealistically portray the police as dirty, politically connected, and unnecessarily violent. Obviously, there have been specific instances in the past that have caused these perceptions, but portraying this to be the norm has been harmful to police and harmful to the community. I can go on about this all day but there’s one thing I hate about these shows and it’s this: it’s all fake.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a show about real police work, watch Southland. Greatest cop show I’ve ever watched. It follows a new beat cop out of the academy through his training period and coming into his own. It’s great because it shows real police work on a daily basis and an officer making new-Officer mistakes. It’s the best Hollywood version of police that I’ve seen in that they show how most police officers really are, not the dirty drama-ridden ones like in the NBC show Chicago PD. You get to see realistic calls, responses, and the stress police deal with while just doing the job. It’s a great example of police work and by far one of the greatest shows, period.
I’ve only seen a few episodes of the Bosch series but the first book was good and it seemed like a decent option. The Rookie, the new cop show with Nathan Fillion, ended up being way too over the top with unrealistic portrayal of police. Apparently in that universe, training officers try to see how many times they can get their new PPOs nearly killed before someone actually dies. Everyone is a hard-ass and cuts no slack in that show. Also, if you get shot, you’re back on the street in a week apparently. They’d have you believe if you got in a shooting, you don’t go on admin leave, you finish your shift. Unrealistic and false.
Instances like these have certainly shaped public perception of the police on top of the media bias against them. But there is some good to be found in the popularity of crime dramas and that is people find police work interesting. People want to see how cops really get things done. They’re interested in the drama that comes with the life of being a cop. Best said by Officer Cooper in Southland, “it’s a front-row seat to the best show on Earth.”
It’s a job that affects the psyche of all those who do it, no doubt. Not everyone turns into self-loathing and destructive alcoholic like many shows predict but they definitely exist. There are also many officers who go on to become detectives, others pursue their law degree, and some retire to sell real estate. Similar to the military, police have all different types of backgrounds, aspirations, and goals. It’s interesting to see these unfold and the stereotypical city detective in a crime drama has a drinking problem, horrible family life which includes a divorce, and an addiction to the job they refuse to acknowledge. But that makes for good TV, or decent TV, depending. Learn what the accurate shows are, what the “good for TV” shows are, and read the novels that depict real police work.