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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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5 Laughable Examples of How Hollywood Messes Up When Portraying Police

These are the things that drive real police crazy about police movies and TV shows.

February 24, 2015  |  by Greg Hardesty

Editor’s note: This blog comes to from Behind the Badge, a publication of the Anaheim (Calif.) Police Department. It is used with permission.

Behind the Badge recently spent some time picking the fertile brain of Lt. Brian McElhaney of the Anaheim Police Department for cool tales about policing. We randomly asked McElhaney, the Crimes Property Bureau Commander in the Investigations Division, to list five ways the movies/TV shows gets things wrong when it comes to portraying cops. Off the top of his head, and without missing a beat, McElhaney, 46, a police officer for 25 years, rattled off the following:

1) Handcuffing a suspect while reading him or her the Miranda Warning — This never happens, McElhaney says. OK, sometimes patrol officers who make arrests may read the Miranda Warning and conduct an interview, but never while putting handcuffs on a suspect, he says. For the most serious offenses, detectives will read the Miranda Warning and conduct an interview long after the cuffs go on.

“The art of interviewing a suspect involves establishing a good rapport, and you don’t have a good rapport when putting someone in handcuffs,” McElhaney said.

Also, the Miranda Warning is not read to a suspect in one long sentence, but goes like this:

You have the right to remain silent.

Do you understand?

Anything you say may be used against you in court.

Do you understand?

And so on.

Actors typically are portrayed saying the Miranda Warning in one large block without asking the suspect if he or she understands each section.

2) Racking a service weapon — You know the scene: It’s a tense situation. A cop enters a room searching for a perp. He then makes a show of “racking” a service weapon, or putting a round in the chamber. The thing is, no cop would do that during this point in a call — his or her service weapon already would have been locked and loaded prior to heading out on the call. “What they would be doing is actually emptying their weapon of a good round that already is in it,” McElhaney said. “I guess they do it for the sound effect because it’s more dramatic.”

3) The safety dance — Related to No. 2, many cop movies and TV shows will depict an officer pointing a Glock and using an external lever to turn off the safety before firing at a suspect. The thing is, Glocks do not have an external safety that can be physically manipulated – the safety is built into the trigger. “The safety turns off when you pull the trigger,” McElhaney says. “But that doesn’t look as cool.”

4) Shooting to wound — McElhaney recalled a real-life incident in which a sniper, after several hours and when no hostage was near the suspect, fired off a “pelvic girdle shot” to take down the bad guy — a bullet to the pant-pocket area that sent him into a helpless clump, but didn’t kill him. But such a shot is a rarity, McElhaney said. In almost all cases, he said, police officers never “shoot to wound” — rather, they are trained to “shoot to stop” by aiming at the chest region, meaning they shoot to stop the action that caused the officer to make the decision to resort to such a type of force. “An officer in such a life-threatening situation usually doesn’t have time to think about that (shooting to wound),” McElhaney said. “They are scared and rely on their training: shoot to stop.”

5) Commandeering a car from a citizen — “I’ve never seen that happen,” McElhaney said. There is a law that says an officer has the right to enlist the help of an adult when necessary, in effect deputizing him, but that almost never happens, McElhaney says — especially in the form of a cop who, while on a pursuit, frantically flags down a motorist to “borrow” his or her car. This is a staple scene in police movies. But as McElhaney says with a smile: “As cops, we usually have access to our own cars.”

What are some of your favorite stupid things in police shows and movies? Comment below.

Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

Donna Redden @ 2/24/2015 12:58 PM

I think it's so lame that when someone takes off and the real leo's catch them and ask why they ran, they almost always say "because they were afraid". To me that's an automatic guilty of something.

John Carp @ 2/26/2015 3:53 PM

Or perhaps, the ever present "cocking" a Glock pistol, where the sound byte is the distinct three clicks of the hammer of a Colt's Single Action Army.

Federali @ 2/26/2015 4:39 PM

When the cop who doesn't have an exposed firearm or no real way of concealing one, pulls a 1911 out and gets into a shootout with about 4-6 reloads! Where in the heck was he/she carrying all that!?!

Cullen Waters @ 2/26/2015 7:53 PM

Standing directly in front of a door while knocking. I trained my people to stand on the hinge side in front of the door frame and reach across to knock, even on a simple theft call. Never bothering to send someone around back when picking up a suspect. Calling out to the suspect from half a block away to get a foot pursuit going.

Tom @ 2/27/2015 7:03 AM

In the real world after shooting one, let alone 3-4 bad guys, you just don't pack up and go home at the end of that shift. Any police officer can tell you that when shots are fired, the day just go a lot longer.

Dan @ 2/28/2015 12:20 PM

1. Rolling to a call to make suspect contact. Usually the suspect has a hostage. But the LEOs will roll C-3 (or the unapproved C-2). This would alert the suspect that they are coming. I would never do this. Park a few houses or a block away. Quiet and tactical.

2. High risk entry. There are SWAT Officers/Tactical Teams in full gear. Ballistic head gear, gloves, raid vests, long guns, etc. But the first people in the door are the patrol guys or detectives, in street clothes with a throw over vest. No ballistic head gear, no gloves nothing. If SWAT is there, everybody else sits back and waits for the all CLEAR. They would never be front man in the STICK during high risk entry.

Allen Way @ 3/8/2015 10:43 AM

It always irks me to see a police officer enter a scene where there is a bad guy, with a gun at the head of a hostage and the bad guy tells the officer to "put down your gun," and the officer complies. That gives the bad guy 2 hostages now. - - Another pet peeve is to see the "experienced officers" holding their pistols with a horribly incorrect grip... I think they should at last be taught to appear to be doing it right!

RonM @ 3/8/2015 10:45 AM

Same as many others have mentioned:
- incredible shots. Nailing a running suspect at 200 yards with a snubbie
- no shot reaction. Every shot is a bang-flop. No thrashing around, crying for momma, etc.
- No aftermath. Shoot the bad guy, kiss the pretty girl, drive off into the sunset.

FlaglerBear @ 3/8/2015 5:16 PM

Here is one that I keep seeing over and over again: Detectives are after a really bad guy (or guys) so they call for SWAT to do an entry. The detectives enter the room FIRST with SWAT BEHIND them!! I've NEVER seen this. It's so ridiculous it's funny.

Eric Reed @ 3/9/2015 4:48 AM

i had the incident in number 5 when my partner left me to go after a violator i had approached the vehicle when he sped off i had to jump from his vehicle my partner started to pursue I jumped in a citizen car that observed this and told him to drive in the direction even to run a red light . Before portable radios I call dispatch to see if he was stopped and had the person drive me there. The violator had stopped at the hospital assaulted my partner and gone inside

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