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Departments : The Beat

Reality TV to the Extreme

It’s not just American cops who get mesmerized by TV and are just a little too into their jobs.

December 01, 2001  |  by Simon Allen

It had become a bit of a ritual that I would tape the programme "Cops" from TV and take it in to work. During the quiet hours while we sat and had a meal break, my partner and the local K-9 officer would sit and watch on the large station TV how it's done in the U.S. The chases are always very popular, as we could only dream of getting that much backup or being permitted to continue the chase so far with so many cars.

It was during the viewing of one of these tapes that my pursuit stress reached maximum level, and although I didn't realise it, I was living the pursuit through the TV. As soon as the cop flipped on his siren, my heart started to beat a little quicker and my hands started to hold onto my mug of coffee a little harder. Yes. The bad guy is off and won't stop.

The police car weaved in and out of the Los Angeles traffic at high speed, and although I didn't realise it, with each twist and turn, each press on the gas pedal and each movement of the steering wheel, I moved my body left and right on the seat, totally glued to the screen. I was told later that the guys in the room were grinning broadly as they watched me totally fixed on the screen like a rabbit in car headlights.

The speed got higher and higher and the commentary got more and more high pitched. The excitement level was unbearable and the camera view was right through the windshield of the police car. I was there with every twist and turn, every jumped light, my heart rate got faster.

The RV the cop on TV was chasing bounced across a junction, swerving left to right, dust and dirt flying everywhere. Narrowly missing cars and pedestrians, the RV screamed through the streets. Suddenly, the driver's door opened and the guy bailed out. I moved closer to the edge of the seat. If this guy goes, I thought, he is mine.

Suddenly, there he is, feet out, he drops out the driver's side and he is off. The police car screeches to a halt and doors are open. With my eyes as wide as dinner plates, I threw down my coffee and jumped out of my seat and made to run at the guy as he legged it from the RV.

It was one of those things that apparently you had to see to get the full impact. After the guys had recovered enough to breathe, they said the look on my face as I watched the pursuit was something they will never forget. As I threw myself out of the seat toward the TV, it all suddenly came to me in a flash that it wasn't real. Have you ever tripped in uniform while on the street, and quickly looked around hoping no one saw? It was that kind of feeling.

I am not allowed to watch "Cops" now unless I am restrained in the seat and my legs are tied.

Constable Simon Allen serves on the Thames Valley Police force in Oxon, England. We'll forgive him for his British spelling, but his colleagues will never let him forget his armchair policing antics.

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