Monday, March 26, 2012

Cops Aren't Idiots, They're Just Written That Way

But I'm stylin'!
This is not a cop-bash. It's a TV cop bash. Reality shows may still be all the rage, but give me a police procedural and I'm glued to the boob tube. But why? Why, why, why are the cops so stupid? I don't know much about real police procedure, but I've gotta believe that TV cops are way dumber than real ones.

I understand that a certain amount of artistic license may be necessary for dramatic purposes, but do writers have to make TV cops short-bus stupid? Surely there are real cops across America that are rolling their eyes, pissed off that TV portrays them as clichéd numbskulls. Don't get me wrong; there are a few smart cops out there. Detective Kate Beckett on "Castle" is smart, pretty, and tough. Detective Robert Goren on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is brilliant. And Detective Jane Timoney (the brilliantly acerbic Maria Bello), late of "Prime Suspect", was the coolest, most realistic female TV cop since Cagney and Lacey (probably why she was canceled). If I was murdered, I'd want any of these top cops on the case.

But most of them are just dumber than a bag of rocks. For example:

Should Be Working Vice
Why are the male detectives all balding, middle-aged, non-descript gray suits while the female detectives are hot and sassy? Carrie Wells on "Unforgettable" (see photo) wears tops cut down to her navel and 5-inch stiletto boots (along with an annoying, ever-present smirk). If I was a suspect and I saw her coming after me, I'd run. Why? Because she can't catch me if she's wearing 5-inch stiletto boots. With her long, bright red hair, sleeveless low-cut tops and heels, she should be working vice, not homicide.

Sharing is Good For the Soul
Why do cops discuss ongoing investigations in front of, well, everyone? They interview a shop-owner in his store, and then reveal details of the case while he listens on. What if he was involved in the crime? Good thing for him that they're kind enough to let him know exactly how off-track they are.

Mr. Manson, Meet the Parents
Why do cops parade families of victims through the squad room, in plain view of the suspects? "Right this way, Mr. Smith." "Hey...hey...! Is that the scumbag who raped and murdered my daughter?" Always eager to help out, some hapless cop has a firearm handy for the victim's dad to snatch and shoot the suspect. The suspect who turns out to be innocent.

Always Give Fair Warning
This is one of my favorites. Our intrepid detectives are searching for a suspect. They spot him on the street and shout, "Hey, you! FREEZE!" from either a) a block away, b) across a crowded room, or c) when the suspect is within easy reach of a potential hostage. Naturally, the suspect always gets away in the ensuing chaos. If I was a cop, I'd casually saunter up to the suspect, put my gun in his ear, and shout FREEZE! That way, he wouldn't get away and I'd have the added benefit of scaring the shit out of him.

Nah, He'll Never Use the Fire Escape
The entire detective squad is decked out in riot gear, the S.W.A.T. team is present with battering rams, shotguns, and automatic rifles. They bust into the suspect's lair, a gunfight breaks out and...the suspect gets away through a secret tunnel, onto the roof, down a fire escape, etc. Did it not occur to anyone to check the building's blueprint before mounting the assault? (The suspect did.)

It Could Be Ketchup
Why do detectives always have to dip their fingers in a pool of blood and then rub their fingertips together to discover that it is, indeed, blood? Haven't they seen enough blood to know what it looks like? And hello? Blood-borne pathogens? Hepatitis? AIDS? ("Dude, did that paper cut heal yet?")

It Could Be Powdered Sugar
If I was a badass drug dealer and wanted to bump off the entire narcotics division, I'd plant a brick of arsenic-laced cocaine in plain view because I could rest assured that all the cops would whip out their switchblade (they all have one), poke a hole in the pack, and taste the product. A product that could be...PCP perhaps? Or Drano? Or rat poison? And how on earth do they pass a department mandated drug test after they've been sampling smack all week?

No, No, Really – I'm Fine
Det. Curtis shoots a kid by mistake. Later, he slams a suspect against a wall during an interrogation and snarls, "You think I'm done with you? Huh? Well, do ya? Punk!" His captain says, "Um, ok. That's enough, Det. By the way, how's the counseling going?" Is there a TV cop out there who actually welcomes counseling after a traumatic event? And is there a lieutenant or captain who would let their detective carry a gun after seeing him/her go uncharacteristically medieval on some perp's ass?

Better Let 'Em Know We're Here
After an episode's worth of searching, our heroes have finally discovered the location of the mad bomber's hideout. So they head over with sirens blaring and tires screeching to a halt, thus alerting the suspect that the police have arrived. While the team is preparing to bust in the door, the perp is setting a booby-trap bomb and effecting his escape. Which leads us to...

No, it's not! Busting into a house, quickly sweeping a room with a flashlight and declaring a room "clear" is just stupid. Did they check the closets, under the bed, the attic, the crawlspace under the house? If I was a bad guy, I wouldn't come out, guns blazing. I'd just hide in the bathtub, because they didn't check there either.

If I Look at You Hard Enough, You'll Confess
If you suspect, but as yet have no proof, that someone's guilty of something, why would you stare them down, thus alerting them that they're under suspicion. "Hmmm... Clearly she knows I'm up to something. So while they're continuing their investigation, I'll eliminate all of the evidence that could possibly implicate me. That way, I'll escape and they can bring me back all season long to not get caught again and again and again and..."

A Few Honorable Mentions...
- Empty threats made against suspects during heated, yet fruitless interrogations
- Insubordinate cops that wouldn't just get fired, they'd be shot
- Unmarked cop cars that look like cop cars ("Hey Vinnie? You think that's a couple of cops in the black Crown Victoria with no hubcaps that's been parked across the street for the past 7 hours?")
- Serial killers that don't get caught
- Unsolved murders of our hero's loved ones (Kate Beckett's mom on "Castle", Patrick Jane's family on "The Mentalist", Carrie Wells' sister on "Unforgettable")

I don't know if it's something in the Police Procedural Writer's Rulebook that says every show has to have this crap, but enough already. Let's get some smart TV cop who wear sensible shoes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Now Pronounce You Gay

Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New York, Vermont, and Washington  – 8 states down, 42 to go!

Women weren't allowed to vote until about 90 years ago. A lot of people thought slavery was OK until it was abolished nearly 150 years ago because it wasn't OK. Hitler thought it was OK to eliminate 10 million Jews and Gypsies until we decided it was actually genocide. After our nation's – and the world in general's – tumultuous history, it shouldn't still take decades to learn from our mistakes. Yet there are people out there who think 8 states allowing gay marriage is 8 states too many. The Republican party is even making the ban on gay marriage a key issue in the upcoming election. Apparently the economy, housing crisis and continued healthcare reform aren't really that big a deal.

Where I live, lawmakers just passed a bill for same-sex marriage. Not to sound overly naïve, but when I heard that I remember thinking, "They had to pass a law for people to get married? I thought they did that already."

Many of the proponents of the bill at the government level are gay, as are many across the country who have campaigned to have similar legislation made into law in their own home states. I'm not gay, and I don't think you have to be to recognize an individual's right to marry anyone they choose. Similarly, you don't have to be black or a woman to appreciate their right to equal civil liberties.

What I've never understood is why groups of people feel the need to curtail the rights and privileges of other groups of people for arbitrary reasons. And yes, they're arbitrary. A person's sexual preference has no bearing on their ability to be an effective firefighter, or teacher, or police officer, or ditchdigger. (There are plenty of straight people who suck at those jobs.)

I dated a woman who thought gays shouldn't be allowed in the military or in law enforcement. This was back during the early days of President Clinton's liberal gay rights policies which eventually morphed into "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I asked her why she felt this way. Her response was that gays in the military would weaken the military's morale and, thus, their readiness because the straight members would be so uncomfortable sharing barracks or showers with the gays. And my response was that that's the straight guys' problem. The gays aren't uncomfortable, so why should they be penalized because a bunch of backward-thinking homophobes don't know how to man up? If G.I. Joe is weirded out by G.I. Joey, get G.I. Joe some sensitivity training. And hey, if you're worried about being hit on by a gay bunk mate, just say no. (Straight soldiers have a history of raping and abusing women in the military already. Sounds like a personal problem...)

I wish I was a trained social psychologist because maybe then I'd have some insight into why homosexuality makes so many people so uncomfortable, even afraid. And I don't say that so I'll look ultra-progressive and cool. I say that because I'd honestly like to know. I understand that homosexuality scares many straight people. I just don't understand why.

Being gay doesn't make you smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker, taller or shorter, fatter or skinnier. Gay people are old and young, black and white, yellow and brown. They're rich and poor, have great jobs and are unemployed. They're less likely to be rapists, serial killers and child molesters. Homosexuality isn't contagious, it doesn't smell funny, it doesn't look funny (most of the time), and it doesn't breed promiscuity. It doesn't affect anyone else in any way, save for an individual's chosen response to it. It's interesting that gays have never sought to compromise the rights and privileges of, or otherwise sanction, straight people. Maybe they would if they were the majority. Maybe if there were more of "them" than "us", I'd have to kiss Christy in private. And maybe I'd read more news stories about straight-bashing and "Herpes: The Straight Disease!" I'd hear more pundits twisting arcane bible scripture to justify their warped interpretation of God's word.

Bottom line, who among us has the right to say who should and shouldn't be allowed to marry? Common sense dictates that you can't marry your sibling or your dog. But short of the obvious, I don't see the problem. Until someone comes along and can prove they're an expert on love and marriage, I think we should all be allowed to make our own decision when it comes to a spouse. Love isn't gay or straight.