Earnest Pettie, comedy writer
Once upon a time, we had tough guys as cops on TV, guys who could take a look at a mug and determine whether or not he committed a crime. That worked for a while until the 80s. Then our cops became a little less skilled, but at least what they had, they’d regained in cool cars. I guess back then a cool car, alone, could intimidate a crook into spilling the beans on a crime. Today, our TV cops have become completely ineffective. They lack toughness, cool cars, and even remedial police skills. They all rely on outside help to solve the simplest cases. It’s as if they took the Turner & Hooch theory of police work and expanded it to encompass all investigative tasks. The first line in the penal code is now “you must have an unorthodox helper to keep you from looking completely dumb.” Here are the least effective law enforcement agencies, as best as I can determine, from watching TV.
5. The LA Field Office of the FBI
TV Show: Numbers
Why They’re Weak: Each week, an entire branch of our nation’s premiere investigative force relies on the skills of a mathematician, Charlie Eppes, to help them either solve a crime that’s happened or thwart a crime about to happen. Are our G-Men that inept that they have to wait for a guy with a Texas Instruments graphing calculator in order to protect the homeland? Can they not get their own graphing calculators? Actually, Charlie seems to do most of his best work with a chalkboard. Do you remember how long it takes to write something on a chalkboard? I mean, Eppes may be able to figure out the appropriate angle to reduce chalk drag and decrease wrist strain, but all that erasing is still going to take up time while the agents are out in the field with a ticking time bomb. And let’s be honest. This is the L.A. field office. Eppes is probably wasting a lot of time writing spec scripts for The Big Bang Theory. Did I mention that Charlie Eppes’s older brother runs the LA field office of the FBI? Yep, he’s that bad at his job that he has to call up his younger brother to bail him out. EVERY WEEK.
4. The California Bureau of Investigation
TV Show: The Mentalist
Why They’re Weak: OK, before the mentalist you’d probably never even heard of the California Bureau of Investigation. They’re not exactly cracking open big cases. I think the biggest case they’ve ever handled was figuring out the Where Are They Now of Ice-T’s old band, Body Count (answer: At home watching Law & Order: SVU).
But we’ll just go ahead and accept the idea that there is a California Bureau of Investigation and they do worthwhile work. The premise of The Mentalist is that the CBI uses a mentalist, a guy who pretends to read people’s minds, to help them solve cases. His name is Patrick Jane. I bet I know his first trick. “I know what you’re thinking… Jane? That’s a girl’s name.” It’s as if the CBI got a grant from the government to just “try some stuff” and went to the county fair to hire someone. They passed on the tightrope walker because they just didn’t have enough aerial cases to justify that and settled on the Mentalist. Basically, he’s just a really observant guy. Shouldn’t that be part of the job requirement for being in a Bureau of Investigation?
3. The Las Vegas Police Department
TV Show: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Why They’re Weak: Apparently, the police officers and detectives of Las Vegas don’t do police work or solve crimes anymore. Instead, all law enforcement has been turned over to the Crime Scene Unit. Everything from stopping jaywalkers to beating criminals up is now under the jurisdiction of the crime lab. The police officers are just glorified door-openers. In fact, if the crime lab were granted skeleton keys, they’d have no need for the police officers anymore– except for maybe filing the paperwork after arrests were made. They have one detective, Brass, that they keep around just to laugh at whenever he walks out of the room.
2. Miami-Dade Police Department
TV Show: CSI Miami, Dexter
Why They’re Weak: First, See #3. But OK, let’s forget about the fact that the CSI is running things in Miami. There’s another show set in Miami: Dexter. Dexter is about a vigilante serial killer who works for the police department. That’s serial killer number one who operates under the police department’s nose. In the first season, we learned that Dexter had a brother who also was a serial killer. The Miami-Dade Police were never able to apprehend Dexter’s brother. Dexter did. So that’s two serial killers. A few weeks later, Dexter meets another serial murderer who falls in love with him. That’s three serial killers in that one little town, just running around offing folks! Come on, CSI: Miami! Can’t you stop these killers from killing?
1. Your Local Police Department
TV Show: America’s Most Wanted, The First 48, American Justice, Basically any crime show on A&E
Why They’re Weak: Local law enforcement can never solve a crime unless at least two decades have passed and at least one TV special has aired. Between Cops and America’s Most Wanted, alone, we see that cops are able to separate feuding spouses but are unable to solve any crime that takes detective work unless John Walsh hops in with his weekly telethon.
I’m not trying to be cynical, but every show on A&E seems to showcase the failure of local police. Either in real-time on The First 48 or in overwrought documentary on American Justice. It seems like we should just trade our police forces in and exchange them for a grab bag of students from the local Community College. Maybe there’ll be an observant guy, a guy with a calculator, a guy with a fingerprinting kit, and a couple of murderers who can combine forces to form the ultimate crime fighting team. That would be awesome.