I've had plenty of people ask me what I think of movies and TV shows centered around law enforcement. Do I like them? Do they piss me off? Do they make me laugh even though they aren't supposed to be comedies? The answer? Yes, to all of them. I love a good police procedural. I love a good film centered around a police officer. I also get mad, or laugh, at shows that really don't know what they're talking about when it comes to law enforcement work. I can tell in about five seconds if the writers or directors have actual experience or are putting forth what they have seen in other movies (correct or not). So, being the humble (wife just snickered) and helpful person I am, let me help sort some fact from fiction in order to make your fictional story more factual. Here are five myths (misconceptions really) I see time and time again.
- Your Badge is Your Source of Authority: Every officer is issued two items when it comes to signs of your authority, their badge and their credentials. The badge is the symbol of power, the credentials are the true source of authority. In fact, my badge actually had, "Not Valid Unless Accompanied by Proper Credentials" engraved on the back of it. It is the credentials that spell out an officer's, or agent's, authority. So instead of, "Show me your badge." A character should say, "Show me your credentials."
- Bad Asses Wear Shoulder Holsters or Cross Draw Holster: Actually, only dumbasses wear those types of holsters. Sorry if you like them, but the truth hurts. The reasons are tactical. A normal holster puts your gun next to your hand's natural rest position and the draw coincides with your natural motion of pulling your hands up your sides and punching the gun out towards your target. It can be done in abut 1/2 of a second. The other two holsters require to reach across your body, then back in a sweeping gesture that takes about a second longer. When you are dealing with projectiles that fly 800-1200 feet per second, that counts. The position of the holster also means that the barrel of the gun is facing backwards, not down. That means at a point when you are rushed and trying to get a good grip on your weapon and trigger, the gun is pointed at whoever is behind you and not at the ground. Yikes! But finally, those holsters place the handle of the gun away from you and towards anybody you are squared up on. Why make it easier for your enemy to draw your weapon, and already have it pointed at you, than it is for you? Remember, 1/2 second for them, and they have the jump, 1 1/2 for you.
- We Have all the Laws Memorized: Umm... no. We know the general intent of the laws and what a violation looks like, but we have to look it up before making the final decision. Why? There's too darn many of them. For me, in Customs and Border Protection, we derived our power from Title 19 of the US Criminal Code. Take a look at it, there will be a test at the end. We also enforced titles of the Criminal Code for Immigration, ATF, Secret Service, Consumer Trade Commission, Agriculture, Child Protective Services, NOAA, DEA, Fish and Wildlife and the Harmonized Tariff of the United States (all of the rates of Duty for EVERY product known to man). The Harmonized Tariff is 14 inches thick, single spaced, on its own. So, no, we don't have it all memorized.
- Bullets Knock You Backwards: No, just no. A bullet's weight is measured in grams. A human's weight is measured in the hundreds of pounds. It's simple physics.
- Flying Armed is Awesome: Flying armed sucks. No two ways about it. Setting aside the massive amount of paperwork you have to go through with TSA (don't get me started on them), think about how narrow airplane seats are nowadays. Now think about having a gun, badge, extra magazines (those would be the things people think are called clips) and handcuffs around your waist. When I would fly armed I would ask the travel coordinator to make sure I was on the aisle on the left side of the plane or the window on the right. That way my gun would not be digging into the person on my right. Last thing I need is for them to ask, "Is that a gun there, or are you happy to see me?" There really is no answer to that question that is not awkward. You also cannot drink alcohol or sleep when flying armed. Makes sense, and I don't mind the alcohol part, but try flying across the country, on a 7am flight, and see how well you stay awake. BORING!. I was in training in New York once. Being the government, I was routed home from New York to Seattle via LA. Awesome. Even more awesome is that I was sick the night before and woke up about every hour. So here I was, trying to hold my eyes open for 6 1/2 hours waiting for the misery to end. My only salvation to stay awake was when they announced the in-flight movie... "Eat, Pray, Love". Damn! That's the opposite of what I need to stay awake.
As an added bonus, I can also say that traveling with your weapon, without armed authorization, also sucks. On another trip back from New York, our Port Director did not give us authorization (she didn't like guns, go figure). I had to declare my weapon in my suitcase to the ticketing representative. First thing she said? Why aren't you wearing it? Then, "I have to see it". So I got my travel case out of my suitcase, opened it and showed her. She said, "All right, but my manager has to see it to clear it." So over came the manager. He said two things, "Why aren't you wearing it?" and, "I have to see it". So out it came again. His response, "All right, but the Port Police have to be the ones to clear it." So I waited for them to respond. Any guesses what they said? "Why aren't you wearing it?" and "I have to see it." Out it comes again. "All right, but TSA has to clear it". Mind you, I have been thirty feet from TSA the whole time. Why I couldn't have gone there first, no one knows. So I go to TSA, "Why aren't you wearing it?" and, "I have to see it." (insert primordial scream here). TSA then proceeded to take out their bomb swiping materials to test my weapon for explosive residue. Really? You think that the tool whose soul purpose in life is to fire projectiles through the explosive force of gunpowder might have residue on it? Turns out, according to TSA, it doesn't.