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
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

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 Television Shows
Past and Present
Page 4
Cop Shows Can Be
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

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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Police Shows
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
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
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 comedy-drama).
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