Why the "Lip-Sync Challenge" Videos Have Value for Law Enforcement

There have been dozens — if not hundreds — of videos posted of individual officers and whole departments dancing and lip-syncing to popular music. Here's why they are a good thing for police.

Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot

Screen grab of the Norfolk (VA) Police Department's version of the Bruno Mars song 'Uptown Funk.' Image courtesy of Norfolk PD / Facebook.Screen grab of the Norfolk (VA) Police Department's version of the Bruno Mars song "Uptown Funk." Image courtesy of Norfolk PD / Facebook.

Last week, the Columbus (IN) Police Department released its answer to the "lip-sync challenge" on its Facebook page. The video included a cameo appearance by one of that city's most famous native sons — NASCAR's living legend Tony Stewart.

In the opening segment of the video, officers pretend to pursue Stewart on a desolate rural road — the standard "professional driver on a closed course DO NOT ATTEMPT" disclaimer even appears at the bottom of the screen.

In the video, "Smoke" exits the vehicle, raises his arms, facing away from the officers. He and three officers then lip sync the refrain "Turn around, bright eyes" from the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler.


Glass Half Full

It's pretty popular — especially among "old school" officers — to look with disdain on the seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of lip-sync videos that have dominated the Internet for the past few months.

I've had numerous LEO friends comment on social media that these projects are demeaning to police, or are just plain pointless.

We recently posted a blog expressing a similar opinion.

I'm now going to be unpopular (not for the first time) and contrarian (again, not for the first time) and offer a differing point of view.

These videos are a good thing for law enforcement.

Let's get one thing perfectly clear right up front: These videos do nothing to "move the needle" to reduce anti-police sentiment among those who truly hate law enforcement.

For the hard-core anti-cop crowd, that needle won't move — ever — no matter what.

But the "lip-sync challenge" videos do serve two other very positive purposes.

First and foremost, these videos can (and probably do) increase LEO morale and unity.

Cops are competitive creatures. A competition to be the best at just about anything brings out the best of the best, so when one sheriff or one chief challenges another, there is an immediate and automatic opportunity to "rally the troops" and win the competition.

When you have dozens of officers volunteering their time to "one up" their neighboring agency in a good-natured competition — and in the process they produce something they can all be proud of — something good is happening.

Admittedly, the videos with just one or two officers don't do much for me. But when there's some real complexity and film-making ability evident, my opinion changes.

My absolute favorite is from the Norfolk (VA) Police Department, who recorded video of an awesome version of the Bruno Mars song "Uptown Funk."

There were no edits.

It was like the opening scene to the movie "The Player," which was directed by none other than film giant Robert Altman.


The San Francisco Police Department — my adopted hometown agency — had a nice entry into the competition, with large numbers of officers executing some pretty complicated choreography.

Then there was the entry from Caldwell (ID) PD, which went a step further.

Perhaps the most important element of Caldwell PD's video was that the department included in their video members of the city government officials and the citizens they serve and protect — which, frankly, strengthens the connection between the police and the public.

Police Going Public

This brings me to the second positive benefit. These videos have — even if only briefly — changed the national dialog about police among some (or really, more than some) in the public.

The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Comments online have been nothing short of glowing.

I've said for years that the overwhelming majority of the American public supports, admires, and respects their police.

They're just the silent majority.

Agencies posting these videos to Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets have given to this group of otherwise voiceless people an opportunity to say something — to be present in the conversation about law enforcement.

These folks generally obey the laws — OK, maybe not the speed limit, but all the others — and go about their lives without ever even encountering a police officer. They don't even think about the police— they never call 911 and they never have officers show up uninvited to their doorstep.

For these people, the police are kind of like the woodwork.

In these videos, the cops are coming out of the woodwork, and the silent majority has been given a platform to speak out in a positive way.

I think that there's some significant value in that.

Even the press has been wildly positive about the lip-sync challenge.

Multiple mainstream media outlets have picked up on the craze and reported "good stories" on their local agency's entry into the challenge. When you have the local television station — and even the national mainstream media — broadcasting stories of lip-sync videos (in large number, I should add), the tone and tenor of the national discussion changes.

Will that pendulum swing back the other way?

Of course it will.

But I think we can all agree that having a "short break in the action" is good for everyone concerned.

The Bottom Line

This latest fad doesn't have the same "gravitas" as the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge from a few years ago, which helped to raise awareness for a deadly disease. But for the sake of the resultant positive press coverage of police — and more importantly, the intra- and inter-agency bonding over this competition — I approve of these videos.

In the end, all the ballyhoo about police lip-sync videos is really pretty trivial.

But trivial pursuits can be fun.

Fun is not in the P&Ps, nor is it in the academy textbooks — it's not even in pre-tour briefings.

But fun is good for any person's well-being.

And I'm OK with having some fun once in a while.

Related Stories:

Video: Officers Nationwide Participate in Lip-Sync Challenge

Who Started the Ongoing “Lip-Sync Battle” Among Police Agencies?

Virginia Department's "Lip-Sync Challenge Video" "Wins the Internet"

Lip Sync Battles, Dance Offs, and Comedic Skits

NASCAR Champ Tony Stewart Makes Cameo in Lip-Sync Challenge Video

Agencies Produce Dozens of Police Lip-Sync Challenge Videos

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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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