Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies


Television and movie cop shows tend to get things very wrong in regards to how it is to really be a cop. I have several in my family and several as friends. AND YES, I KNOW IT'S TV/MOVIE FICTION----this is just commentary on how wrong they get it.

1. Shootouts and car chases happen every day on the job

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

Life for cops is not grand theft auto. The majority of police work is boring tedious paperwork. Some cops never even fire a gun in their entire career. In fact, all those shows where you see cops busting in guns a'blazing isn't often reality either because they a)don't want to escalate a situation that doesn't need to be escalated to guns being drawn, and b)unless they are aware of a weapon beforehand or can see one being drawn, they don't draw their weapons automatically for every call. Also due to the high risk of danger to regular citizens, often the few car chases that do happen are called off.

2. Cops wear Gucci Suits and Christian Louboutins to work

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

Most cops are in a uniform or they are dressed in a manner in which they would blend in in plain clothes rather than stick out like a sore thumb at a crime scene or during an investigation. Not only that, the job can get hot and sweaty and you could be exposed to all sorts of things, so why you would wear your best $500 pair of shoes would be baffling.

3. "The Lab" has sexy mood lighting and only a few people working out of uniform

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

TV labs always are these dark mood lit rooms with only a handful of employees dressed whichever way they'd like. Lab techs need to be professional at all times and work in a manner in which if called into question, they can verify their evidence which translates into labcoats, well lit sterile environments, several employees working their shifts, and not doing things like eating a snack in the lab crumbs dripping over evidence as they randomly discuss a case with whatever officer busts in demanding to see the evidence now.

4. Cases always get solved neatly and quickly

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

The reality is, only about 46% of violent crimes ever get solved by the cops due to lack of evidence, witnesses drying up, people failing to testify, lost evidence or evidence still in a 'mood lit lab' somewhere, or the perpetrator disappearing. TV and movies would have you believe this number is closer to 90% in the way so many get solved and so efficiently without any delay.

5. Cops are cool with shooting people

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

Cops are human beings too. I'll repeat that. Cops are human beings too. They risk their lives every single day and taking a life is not a joke. Fiction often portrays cops as gunning down 20 people in one sitting and then nonchalantly rolling back into work the same day like nothing happened. Many cops who have had to take a life suffer PTSD, stress, some commit suicide, and many are told to take some time off and seek counseling after it happens before coming back in to just allow them to process what they've had to do to protect themselves or others and even then, some cops will never go back on duty after taking a life.

6. Apparently anyone can run S.W.A.T

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

So a cop is on the scene, a hostage is taken, and he calls for S.W.A.T. Of course S.W.A.T arrives with no helmets on and the cop starts telling them what to do and how s/he is going to lead them into the house. Then they immediately kick down the door and head on in...yeah, no, no, nope. There is a reason you call in a specialized team to handle a situation such as this....because they are a specialized team trained to handle things like hostage situations. S.W.A.T also comes in with helmets to protect themselves from bullets to the head or bomb gear and robots if necessary and does everything they can not to engage in a violent situation because there are often other lives at stake. S.W.A.T interventions can take long patient hours of slow negotiations and talks that hopefully lead to a peaceful surrender. Last resort is to go in and engage with a suspect.

7. There's always a cop that is allowed to take things into their own hands

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies

This would be the exact person a chief doesn't want on his force. Legally speaking, an officer who continuously doesn't follow the rules, tampers with evidence, tries solving cases on his own through nefarious means on/off work hours, would be the first one fired because any halfways decent lawyer would get their cases thrown out not to mention social media/media would have a field day with a department who knew about or allowed a cop to go rogue on their watch.

Everything Wrong With Cop Shows and Movies
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Most Helpful Guys

  • Massageman
    Very true observations. Great job!!
    As you pointed out, this is cookie-cutter make-believe, and not the average day in the life of an officer.
    If it bleeds, it leads. And if they wear sexy suits, so much the better.
    Some random comments for each point-
    1. Our small, but highly-packed-with-stores city, has an average of about two "chases" per week, and that usually amounts to just driving until they find the alleged perpetrators.
    2. Yup - this is Hollywood!
    3. In just about every show, there has to be several elements- the protagonist (hero/ine), the antagonist (s) (bad person), the boss (typically frustrated by the rebel), the rebel (the one who takes things into their own hands, AND there has to be a couple of setting where people would normally interact, just to have a setting in which they can interact. In Frasier, it was the coffee shop. In Star Trek the Bridge or 10 Forward (depending on the version). In cop procedurals, the "lab" is a great place to have these exchanges. Plus, you get a chance to introduce funky characters for essential "comic relief" in the drama!
    Abby- NCIS goth go-to girl in the lab. Gotta love those "boots".
    Abby- NCIS goth go-to girl in the lab. Gotta love those "boots".
    4. And in many of these series, there is an "unsolved case" that is added as a long-arc part of the show. In Monk, it was his wife's killers. In MacGyver is was psycho Murdoc.
    5 and 6. In shows, for better or worse, there is "time compression" and "time expansion". A 20-hour standoff has to be compressed to 44.5 minutes, and a 5-minute assault has to be expanded to fit the same time-frame. This means that the realities of of police work have to be cut short, expanded, changed, or much of the time- -just plain ignored. One episode of "Bluebloods" had Jamie acting as a subject matter expert for a cop show being shot in town. Except everything that he suggested that would have made the story true-to-life took too much time, cost too much money, or both (since time IS money in productions, even fake ones in a script.)
    7. Yup. See #3 for the frustrated boss- here is the cause of that frustration.
    Is this still revelant?
  • mrgspoter
    Nobody thinks this is real though people know it's not realistic and only stupid people actually think anything like that is truthful don't need to know any police in real to know that. But it's more dirty than its shown it's corrupted everywhere
    Is this still revelant?

Most Helpful Girls

  • nerdybutlazy
    I think in general this is the reason why some people want to become cops because of how they look on tv and then they are disappointed with the reality when and if they get the job
    Is this still revelant?
  • LeeannaDD
    I agree with this
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • MercuryG
    Awesome take on TV shows and dramatization of a very real career!

    I'm curious what your take on "The Rookie" is in these regards? It's obviously overdramatized in regards to the amount of action as no one would really watch how boring real police work is, but it definitely seems to take a bit of a different approach with being a rookie beat cop.
  • SirBearon
    It's entertainment not reality. Every movie I've ever seen I any genre fabricate reality. How boring would a cop show be if it showed the real life of a cop? That's what cops is for or real documentaries. I get it, sometimes movies/shows really bother me sometimes to the point I can't watch it anymore. Example NOS4A2 is quite possibly the dumbest most illogical show ever created but watched it just for entertainment.
  • abc3643
    Did you ever see "Cop Rock"?
    If not, watch it.
    THEN you will know everything wrong with cop shows.
  • Cryptic-Game
    Yes, totally agree. They over hype cops and thing they are more amazing than they are. They oftentimes also do dirty things but you never see that pointed out on shows hardly. Family Matters sometimes exposed dirty cops.
  • This was very fun and interesting to read! Great observations and insights! This was really refreshing to read! Nice work!
  • Guanfei
    But let's be honest, if you presented the cop's job as it is, there wouldn't much to show on TV. TV shows have to be entertaining, and that rarely goes in pair with being realistic.
    • If you showed cops realistically on TV, there would be a lot of racist cowards shooting unarmed people, cops committing crimes in so-called "bad neighborhoods," etc. NYPD is the biggest criminal organization in the world.

  • bulletbob555
    I always felt the show cops was showing bad procedure generally on the program. Now its off the air
    • Anonymous

      I think the earlier seasons may have been more in line with "real" reality, but once popular, they have to get rating somehow.

    I love this mytake. Lol
  • Tstrbrainer
    Yeah 😂. This was informative, thanks 😀
  • Anonymous
    I laugh when Ice Tea abuses perps on SVU. He obviously love doing it
    • Anonymous

      Your most basic person would know to call "lawyer" on that one.

    • Anonymous

      I would love to see the episode where it becomes headlines news, riots bring the city to its knees and the mayor fires him

  • Anonymous
    It's a movie for a reason🤡