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More cop show myths put to the test

Being a police officer may not be as flashy as TV, but can be more exciting, terrifying

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Posted: Monday, December 14, 2009 12:00 am

My son and I were watching an episode of the old cop show "Adam-12" the other night. I had to laugh when I saw Reed and Malloy carrying a shotgun and little blue gym bags the size of a foot long sandwich to their patrol car after briefing. Gym bags with zippers.

Nowadays officers lug equipment bags bigger than some of them. They have assault rifles and shotguns containing bean bag rounds in their cars. Tasers, digital cameras, and cell phones are issued to them at the beginning of their shifts. The computers in their cars allow them to do reports, conduct research, find their way to a location, and access law enforcement-related Web sites on the Internet.

Reed and Malloy only had a couple of report forms between the two of them. They didn't even have portable radios.

It all leads me to the next edition of cop show myths.

— Somehow sliding across the hood of a police car is quicker than simply running around to the driver's side, opening the door and getting in. In real life, the offending officer would have to fill out a memo explaining the large scrape on the hood of his car. He or she would also have to deal with the embarrassment of their expensive uniform pants melting when they generated about a thousand degrees Fahrenheit during the slide across the hood.

— Contacts with informants usually involve calling the guy by his street name (Huggy, Izzy, or Oso), getting close enough to make the snitch visibly uncomfortable, and having him nervously look side-to-side a couple of times to make sure no one saw him talking with the cops. He usually gives you more information each time you give him another $5 bill. Wrong. Actually, contacts with informants are controlled and documented. Rarely do they meet with the police in public. And $5 won't get you a whole lot of information in 2009.

— Officers' guns are unloaded until it comes time to deal with a situation. Then they get out of their car, rack a round into their handgun, and run off after the suspect. Or better yet, they wait until they are up to the front door of the guy's house, loudly rack the round, then quietly sneak into the house. Incorrect. Officers' handguns are always loaded. It's safer and saves time.

— Stakeouts (watching the bad guy's house) always involve high tech equipment like fancy computers, long range telephoto lenses, thermal imaging, voice analyzers and a cop tossing coffee in a white Styrofoam cup out the window the minute they see the suspect. Untrue. Stakeouts, or surveillances as we call them, are actually boring, time-consuming endeavors spent in an old van where you are usually too cold or too hot and you want to sleep or go to the bathroom. The only high-tech equipment you have is your cell phone which you constantly check to see how much time has transpired since the last time you checked the phone. All kidding aside, surveillances often pay great dividends, and we've caught a lot of people over the years because of them.

— T.J. Hooker's hair did not distract viewers from the fact he was taking care of business. False. His toupee was scary. The post-"Star Trek" years had been a challenge to Captain Kirk. His decision to play Sgt. Thomas Jefferson Hooker of LCPD, Academy precinct, required the use of something akin to a squirrel on his head. Rumor has it the role was loosely based on a retired Lodi P.D. lieutenant with a big head of hair who started this column many moons ago.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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