Police movies. The whole ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine. Chasing folk over rooftops, driving down narrow side streets through stacks of boxes and diving in slow motion away from huge explosions. Getting yelled at by the lieutenant, throwing our badge across the desk but then saving the day and getting the girl in the process.
Just how realistic is this? How much are we influenced by some of Hollywood’s best portrayals of our profession? In this, less than serious, post, I look at my own top five cop movies and consider how they relate to my role, starting off with -
5) Police Academy (1984) – The Police Academy films, well, most of them, excited me because they gave me the impression that once I got to police academy myself, I’d have as much fun as they did in the picture. People from all sorts of different backgrounds would gather on day one and slowly but surely be molded into reasonably competent officers. I’d meet a variety of different characters – the one who loves guns, the one who does the voices, the quiet one who can be really loud – and we’d all bond during our journey from civilians to cops. This sort of happened too – we didn’t drive too many police cars through walls or get sent to Russia but what did happen was that we did bond, we developed and worked together to graduate.
4) The Wicker Man (1973) – Genuinely one of my favourite films, this is all about a Scottish officer who takes on the mother of all missing persons enquiries which ends up going pretty much as badly as any job could – he is sacrificed by a group of skirt wearing, makeup-clad pagan islanders inside a giant wicker man. This is the nightmare scenario for any job and something that in reality happens to very few officers. Before ending up as toast though, the officer makes some incredibly tenacious enquiries to find his lost girl demonstrating many of the skills that make a good police officer.
3) Die Hard (1988) – John McClane is the reason that I, like many other officers, wear a white sleeveless vest under my uniform. If worst comes to worst I can strip down to this key bit of police kit and blow up a skyscraper or two to prevent evil terrorists bothering the good people of Walsall. If nothing else, McClane teaches us the importance of always having a smart quip ready to dish out to the bad guys. A catchphrase doesn’t hurt either – yippee-ki-yay!
2) Tango & Cash (1989) – At the start of a shift when we’re assigned partners, the first thing we always do is to decide who is going to be the good cop and who is going to be the bad cop. This is relatively easy as my unit is split down the middle between good, by-the-book cops who have only got one day until retirement and then the renegade trouble causers who don’t always follow the rules but get the job done in their own way. Tango & Cash demonstrates the importance of both working together when we’ve been sent to jail for a crime we did not commit and also driving the biggest, meanest assault vehicle we can lay our hands on to demolish the drug dealer’s lair.
1) Point Break (1991) – The ultimate dream of every new recruit to the police is to one day infiltrate a group of bank robbers-cum-surfers and learn to catch the perfect wave at the same time. To defeat the gang, Point Break’s protagonist, Johnny Utah, must not only gain an understanding of his foe but also avoid doing anything that comes anything close to acting. Like officers do up and down the country, he puts his life at risk on a daily basis because he wants to prevent crime. And surf. And at the end of the day, is there a truer expression of the Peelian Principles than that? No.