While police shows aren’t the best sources for
police procedural behavior, they frequently illustrate
the wrong way of doing things.  This observation is
not meant to be a criticism.  When it comes to
entertainment, watching TV cops doing everything
the right way would be pretty boring.  While
enjoying the humor in the screw-ups, you should
realize the realism associated with the screw-ups.  

I was watching an episode of the
The Closer
starring Kyra Sedwick.  The shows opens with
Lieutenant Provenza (C.W. Bailey) conducting a
murder for hire sting on a female suspect.  
Following the arrest, Lieutenant Provenza and
Lieutenant Flynn (Tony Denison) are transporting
the suspect and the evidence back to Los Angeles.  
While in route, they stop at a roadside restaurant
for lunch.  Provenza makes certain all the evidence,
i.e. video tape of the sting; money, and the would
be victim’s wallet, used to convince the suspect that
the hit had been done, are all secured in the locked
trunk of their car.  Provenza even breaks out the
steering wheel club as Lieutenant Flynn teases
Provenza for his paranoia.

Inside the restaurant, the two detectives choose a
table in front of a large window directly overlooking
their car.  So far so good, but, the entertainment
part of this wouldn’t work if the detectives, or one
of them, had seated himself to maintain constant
observation of the car.  The two detectives are
seated with their backs to the window.  The
suspect, who up to this point had not exhibited
much intelligence, begins questioning the detectives
about the importance of the evidence against her as
she, seated opposite the detectives, watches two
car thieves break into the unmarked police car and
drive away.  It was pretty easy to see what was
coming, but the actors’ performances made for a
very funny and entertaining scene.  I laughed and
nodded as I thought about the realism the scene
really portrayed.  
Page 4
Police Shows
Police Television Shows
Past and Present
Page 4
Cop Shows Can Be Educational
by Barry M. Baker
When you become a police officer, you’re going to
receive instruction about the absolute importance of
evidence chain of custody.  Whenever the chain of
custody is broken, the admissibility of the evidence,
assuming it’s subsequently recovered, will be in
serious jeopardy.  If the evidence in question is
susceptible to any change or alteration, the
admissibility of that evidence will, in all probability,
be denied.

Okay, let’s look at the real world of police and police
behavior.  I guarantee that you’ll work, at some
point, with a police officer who rarely turns off the
engine of his or her police car.  If the officer stops
in at a convenience store in cold weather, the officer
will let the engine run, with the key in the ignition,
to keep the heater running; in warm weather the air
conditioner will apply.  In weather where neither
apply, the engine will still run, because that officer is
lazy, incompetent, and naïve in the belief that
people won’t steal police cars.  If you think that
officer’s behavior would be any different if the trunk
were packed with evidence, you’d be wrong.

The realism in
The Closer scene is educational,
because it illustrates that even though Provenza
took reasonable steps in securing the evidence,
those steps proved to be insufficient.    

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Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker  
TV Shows
Cops (stylized as COPS) is an American documentary /
reality legal series that follows police officers, constables,
sheriff's deputies, federal agents and state troopers during
patrols and other police activities including prostitution and
narcotics stings. It is one of the longest-running television
programs in the United States and, as of May 2011, the
longest-running show on Fox, following the cancellation of
America's Most Wanted after 23 years.
This is a list of police television programs. Dramas
involving police procedural work, and private detectives,
secret agents, and the justice system have been a
mainstay of broadcast television since the early days of
broadcasting. Shows that are not dramatic programming
are indicated (e.g. reality television, comedy or