Do you ever look at Police shows and ask yourself; Is that real? Well, our team of former Police Detectives with decades of experience have put together our top 10 list of things that your favourite cop show gets wrong over and over and over again, which constantly sends Police and former Police alike into fits of laughter and sometimes rage!
CCTV: Almost all your favourite Cop shows have someone that can “patch in”, “hack” or get a link into CCTV systems. The truth is unless a pre-existing network connection is in place for Police real time CCTV surveillance is still very rare in Australia. Some local councils provide their local Police station with access but getting CCTV from a business or other organisation requires police to identify the location as having CCTV footage, then going and politely asking (often more like begging) to get a copy of the footage and view it. This can take hours, days and at times even weeks when the owner of the CCTV system does not know how to use it and needs to get their own tech to come in and download the footage for viewing. Not only that all the systems in use have different software configurations and cant be played on easily available software further adding to the frustration of detectives everywhere!
Surveillance: Surveillance is not taught to officers as part of their initial training, and it is quite hard to do. The common scene where a cop follows a suspect in one car for any more than a few blocks or for any sustained period is the last thing police do. They employ vastly different and thankfully, way better tactics than this so criminals are less likely to recognise they are being followed. Not to mention taking photos with a long lens camera in virtually any environment significantly increases the chances of being noticed not just by the suspect by other people in the area. The objective of surveillance is not to be noticed by anyone, not even citizens unrelated to the investigation so surveillance operatives are generally people you see but don’t notice.
Line ups: There have been some great scenes with line-ups – the usual suspects and Brooklyn 99’s “I want it that way” opening scene homage` to the police line-up are classics. But in reality, they are exceptionally rare. Most criminals thankfully choose not to take part in a line up, and if they did ask they can almost never be run because of the difficulty involved in finding people to go in the line-up. Before you can run a line up you need to find enough people as well as finding the right number available at the right time that look kind of similar to the criminal. Even in the CBD finding people who fit the criteria and are willing to assist police makes line-ups a virtual impossibility.
Confessions: Confessions do not, say that with me DO NOT happen. With decades of policing experience, we have seen very very few offenders confess. They may slip up and make admissions or they may give information that works against them later, but the instances of actual confessions in an admissible form occurring are very few!
Crime Scene Investigators (CSI): Argh!!!! Lets get something straight. Many of these crime scene officers are NOT actual police officers and they don’t investigate crime! They don’t arrest people; they don’t interview people and they certainly don’t charge people. Much like a scientist their role is to collect evidence (which they do quite well I might add) working hand in glove (pun intended) with the detectives who interview, arrest and charge the offenders. Detectives take the results they get from the investigations conducted by Crime Scene Investigators and the other evidence they have obtained and use that to build a case. Hence for all you CSI fans out there you have been lied too!!!
Get a warrant: Every second episode of cop shows (including cops) seems to have someone yelling “get a warrant!”. But the truth is, at least in Australia, there are a number of instances where police can enter a house without needing a warrant. In fact, in NSW legislation allows Police in certain circumstances to remain on a premises and exclude people from it whilst they go and get a warrant.
Detectives and tactical teams: You will have seen in so many police Tv shows and movies how the investigators lead or follow a tactical team into a search warrant or a hostage rescue. This is completely and absolutely false. For all high-risk building entries that require a Police Tactical Team (often referred to as SWAT in the US) the detectives are behind the inner perimeter waiting for the tactical team to give them clearance to enter after the scene has been deemed safe and clear. Tactical teams will never ever include non-tactically trained officers on a tactical entry, period!
Shooting at fleeing offenders: You know the scene in the movies where the hard-nosed detective gets in a foot pursuit and for some reason can’t catch the bad guy but shoots at them as they run away or flee the scene in a car. Yep you guessed it – that’s total BS! Police are not allowed to do that because its putting members of the public at risk. If an officer were stupid enough to do this then that officer will not be a police officer for long, or wont have access to their firearm anytime soon.
Back up guns: That moment when the police officer, having somehow lost his primary firearm, reaches to his ankle or the small of his back and pulls out a second compact pistol to get the jump on the bad guy. In Australia at least, secondary firearms are prohibited unless you are part of a tactical team that uses long arms. Having said that the consensus in our office in our decades of experience, no one heard of let alone had the need themselves for a secondary compact pistol.
The paperwork: The one thing no one, and we mean no one tells you about policing is the myriad of paperwork that goes with it. Obviously, paperwork doesn’t make for good viewing, but an episode of SVU and Blue Bloods could be easily wiled away just with the characters sitting at their computer hacking away at the keyboard. When you think it can’t be that bad, a typical, easy charge for a detective in one shift would see them,
- Write notes at the scene
- Type up a victim statement
- Type up a witness statement
- Enter the incident in the main computer system
- Catalogue and enter the exhibits in the exhibits system
- Do the arrest & fill out notes in the notebook regarding the arrest
- Fill out the forms and documents to enter the offender in custody
- Fill out the documents to file the recording for any interview
- Make notes in the interview
- Fill out documents to get DNA from the suspect
- Type out the charge for the offender and the facts sheet
- Fill out an AVO application if needed
- Type up a situation report to be submitted to brief the police hierarchy
- Enter a log of your activities for the day in a “duty book”
- Complete a shift log
- Type up your overtime sheet because it took 16 hours to get through everything and you now need to spend more time on paperwork to get paid for all the paperwork you did.
- Then in the following weeks you need to do more paperwork to provide a brief of evidence for the court which you guessed it, means more paperwork!
Hence once again and as always, the moral of the story is you can’t believe everything you see on television. If you want to learn more about the covert world of Private Investigators Sydney, policing, what we do and how we do it follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.