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TV cops: Fact vs. myth

Adrenaline-fueled, high-drama television cop shows offer a distorted picture of reality


Publicity photo of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts from a Jim Nabors television special.

Photo/CBS Television

The other night we had some non-law enforcement friends over for dinner. As the children were watching a popular police drama on TV, the conversation turned to what was happening on that show.

Some questions were asked and, after 45 minutes, I decided to burst everyone’s bubble. It was time to explain fact from myth. Here are 23 facts that set the record straight about real cops vs. TV cops:

1. Crime is not solved in one hour with eight commercials.

2. Seldom have I thrown my badge across my Captain’s desk.

3. When seconds count, help is just a few minutes away.

4. I never responded to a call with smoking tires and blaring upbeat music.

5. Investigations take time.

6. Detectives have a caseload; they are not just assigned one case at a time.

7. I never saw a gun shot out of a suspect’s hand.

8. I never beat a confession out of a suspect.

9. Crime scene personnel do not interview and arrest suspects.

10. There is a lot of paperwork for every action taken and it does not wait until the morning.

11. Bartenders are not usually pulled across the bar.

12. I can’t remember the last time someone went rogue.

13. I only said once,” Book ‘em Danno, murder one.”

14. Jumping through a window is not a smart move.

15. Most of the time I drive without lights and sirens.

16. State attorneys are never walking around the station house.

17. I have never had to make the choice between cutting the blue wire or red wire.

18. I have never jumped onto a moving car, bus, train or ship.

19. No one just walks onto a crime scene.

20. I have never seen someone lick their finger and state, “That’s cocaine!”

21. All my weapons are department-approved.

22. If a SWAT team is called, they go in first.

23. Female detectives do not wear high heels.

By the time I was done explaining fact from myth, police work did not seem all that glamorous. But it sure is damn rewarding.

Marty Katz is a retired sergeant with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During his 34-year career, his assignments included field training officer, SWAT team member, undercover narcotics detective, academy instructor street crime suppression unit and supervisor of Recruitment, Criminal investigations and Patrol. Marty is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement certified instructor (Firearms, Defensive Tactics, Driving, First Responder, Ethics and Human Diversity), Expert Witness for Use of Force issues, a member of ILEETA, and past Florida Chapter Director for the International Association of Ethics Trainers In addition, Marty has trained in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police and is a martial arts instructor.

Marty is owner and chief instructor of Crimewave Solutions, a training company for officer survival and common sense self defense. His first book, Past the Uniform, was published in 2008.

Contact Marty Katz