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Is police violence on TV to blame?

June 2020

The age-old question has been does watching too much TV rot your brain? In light of the most recent shooting death of a black man in Atlanta, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, by now former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who is now facing 11 charges, I do have to wonder what the effect cop TV show and movies have had in many police involved deaths.

Of course, the issue of police shooting of civilians is nothing new, but several high-profile shootings have made this issue hotter than ever.

We aren’t even a month out from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May whose death, although not by a police gun, has sparked protests and even riots across America and Canada, does highlight a far-too aggressive side of policing that often results in the death of civilians.

I recently have become a fan of the TV show Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg. While this show is well written and good entertainment, I still cringe at the number of times bad guys are shot (or at least shot at), usually by Wahlberg’s character or his partner.

As a retired police officer, I do understand that these police shows and movies are entertainment, and if they reflected what actually happens for the average cop on an average day, they would be rather boring.

I grew up watching Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies, which I loved, and a lot of the other cop movies in the 1980s, so I understand the entertainment value of all of them.

That said, when was the last time you saw a TV cop being disciplined by their superiors for the multiple gun fights/deaths they are involved in; or cops filling out the multiple reports that would have to follow a police-involved shooting; or cops attending hearings regarding their conduct; or cops being charged with any offence related to a police-involved shooting, even if it’s for the property damage caused as a result.

For the record, although Dirty Harry did occasionally catch grief from his superiors for his behaviour, it was frequently played for comic effect and he certainly never faced any serious consequences for his actions.

I do have to wonder if the trigger-happy cops we see on TV and in the movies are having an influence on today’s generation of cops.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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