Beyond the Baton: Cops, real and fictional.

Someone did a survey years ago.  It turns out that people don’t like real cops doing the same things they cheer them doing in the movies.  As if they understand there’s a difference between giving them the fictional ability to bend or break rules without consequence.

That’s because they realize that there’s a big difference between this happening in a writer’s imagination and this happening in real life.  In fiction, when the cop goes hell-bent after the bad guy, it’s the bad guy.  There’s no one going “what if it’s not the bad guy?”  Unless, of course, it’s a plot twist and you’re meant to ask that question.  But let’s be honest.  99% of cop movies and shows give us the image of cops who have no problem bending the rules when it suits them to get the bad guy.

I find it hard to believe that real cops aren’t influenced by this somehow.  I also wonder how much the rest of us are influenced, given that when we’re put on juries, we’re front-loaded to trust the police, even though the fact is most of us have no reason to.  If you have any question that police lie, just post “police perjury” in your search bar.  Whew boy can the folks in blue perjure the hell out of themselves.  They’re better at it than criminals.  Of course, it’s easy when you walk in and everyone assumes you’re telling the truth right out of the gate.

We’re primed to.  We watch television for escapism and adventure by proxy, and there are few professions that seem more dramatic to us than cops.  Oh, we can get by with lawyers, doctors, politicians, and a few other professions where conflict can seem larger than life to the average viewer, but we do love our cop shows.  Hill Street Blues, Blue Bloods, Adam-12, Dragnet, Barney Miller, NYPD Blue, Hawaii 5-0, NCIS, CSI, etc…etc…etc…  I can’t begin to imagine how many different cop shows we’ve had.  Weird one-offs like Life and Life on Mars.  The gritty dramas like The Shield and The Wire, with “gritty” standing in for “realistic,” though I question any such designation.  Cop shows would have you believe that every idiot wants to get into a gunfight with the cops, and, no, we’re actually a country where most criminals know it’s a pretty damn stupid thing to do.  Now cops seem to be more likely to be shot by a political renegade than a criminal.

And you know what I’m saying.

We love these tv families, these fictional teams of people thrown together to do what we perceive as a particularly dangerous job (detectives almost never get shot, or even shot at, btw).  It’s a testament to the writers and the actors that they can create such a feeling of camaraderie not only between the cast members, but also with the viewing public.

I just wonder how much of it blinds us to the realities of the situation.

I’ll leave you all with one final question.  How do you think most of your fictional cops would handle something like Ferguson?