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Sunday, May 07, 2006

TV Cop shows...

...somehow lose their appeal when one partakes in the "live, reality" version. At least, they did for me.

Several years of displaying avid interest in the trials and tribulations that our on-screen counterparts, real or fictional, went through in the space of a weekly primetime TV slot soon diluted into bemusement coupled with disinterest, as the true nature of the role of policing was quickly impressed upon me by both word and experience - it's NOT "as seen on TV".

Be it the police procedural; the 'whodunnit'; the maverick cop show or the "fly on the wall", my reception to the majority of such shows is always the same: "That's not what it's really like!"

The omission of procedure and process and of unengaging patrol time makes for the so-called documentaries to be nothing more than an encapsulation of a modicum of policing that is neither the norm nor to be expected. A one-hour slot is usually a composite of several weeks or months of incidents, resulting in the skewed perception of police duties comprising non-stop running; fighting and chasing. If it was a reflection of what every tour of duty was like then half the nation's officers would be off on stress.

It's quite understandable, of course - nobody wants to watch a documentary about the police in which the most dramatic event of a shift is the stapler running out of staples, or adrenlaine-filled action comprising the attempt to stop that spilt mug of tea ruining the full file an officer has spent two days preparing.

Fictional notions of policing are usually met with derision from some officers, who bemoan the lack of accuracy or the plausability of characers. It can make for an unpleasant viewing experience for the layman who watches such shows with an officer. The possible exception to this could be the BBC's "Life on Mars", widely regarded by officers of senior service as being closer to reality than most people would like to accept.

Personally, I found that, after working a shift, the last thing I wanted to do after the tour of duty was to sit down and watch other people performing a loose notion of a vaguely similar Job unless it was particularly engaging. If I wanted to do that on a regular basis I'd sit in our CCTV suite during the primetime slot.

Some like seeing the work of specialist units which they would not normally encounter during the average tour of duty. Each to their own, of course - I request attachments with those units that interest me and which I am suitable for.

Our station occasionally plays host to a TV crew of some network or another, usually out to try and obtain footage to either assist with a show for the ratings wars or fill dead airtime. I treat the cameras like a firearm - if I end up in their line of sight I might be finished (metaphorically speaking). Indeed, most of my colleagues share my sentiments.

Recently, a camera crew decided to film a briefing of an urgent nature. The plan was for all officers in the division to be called in to the parade room, in which the briefing would be displayed on a large projector screen, in surrounds able to comfortably accommodate a large number of officers. As it happened, the projector wasn't working, so the event had to be held in the cramped Sergeant's Office on the woefully inadequate 15" computer monitor. The camera crew asked for those who did not want to be filmed to move out of frame, to the left of the room, but where they could still see the screen (or, at least, see the plastic casing that surrounded it). This led to the scene of thirty officers huddled in one corner, avoiding the camera's glare, with ten or so brave souls crowded around a tiny monitor attempting to read text of an important briefing. Truly, we have moved with the times. It was decidedly not the "well oiled crime-fighting machine" image that senior management wanted to project. That said, the machinery is so badly broken that no amount of spin, gloss and TV magic will create that effect!

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
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