In the first instalment of Reel entertaining careers, which looks at the real-life counterparts of jobs that are often depicted in movies and television shows, I examine the difference between cops on screen and our local police officers.
Law enforcement is a highly respected profession that employs some of the most caring, passionate and hard-working citizens. It also has all the elements you need to keep eyes and ears glued to TV sets, no matter what the genre is.
Chaos, deceit, murder, navy blue uniforms! Add some romantic tension, a few moments of reflection on the meaning of justice in today’s society and a sprinkle of wicked one-liners. And there you have it: a ratings-osaurus!
From over-the-top dramas to reality television, viewers flock to high-speed car chases and blurred-out faces in interrogation rooms. We have bottomless stomachs for cop shows and movies such as The Departed and The Untouchables.
“…a lot more meaningful than, you know, what you see on TV”
Const. Wendy Drummond, a media relations officer with the Toronto Police Department, says she wasn’t led into policing 16 years ago by delusions of grandeur; she had a family history of policing, and wanted to help people and affect change in her community.
Const. Drummond says the depictions we see of policing on television are only a small insight into what police do. “There are so many other facets of policing that are definitely not entertainment, and a lot more meaningful than, you know, what you see on TV.”
It’s like a pie chart, she says, where only 2% of the pie represents reality. The rest is fiction.
Although shows do the research and provide an element of reality, advanced technology “is not something we use on a day-to-day basis. The money they have to pour into stuff is not the same as we have on a day-to-day basis.”
“…things that 99% of the population don’t see, don’t deal with”
The job also has a gruesome side not many people see. Death, trauma, violence. Const. Drummond mentions children, as both victims and survivors. Having to notify families and working with grieving family members through a court case, a homicide case, is just part of the job. “You’re talking years when a case is before a court.”
And danger, she says, is “always there. It’s something we’re trained for, something that we always have to be aware of.”
“The majority of officers do this job to make a difference”
Despite all the bad, Const. Drummond says she enjoys changing lives, such as removing people from abusive situations and helping them get to safety.
“There are times you arrest somebody or charge somebody, if you do your job thoroughly and correctly, you usually get a thank you at the end of it and you know you’ve done a good thing.”
But, she admits, there is still plenty of opportunity to be part of the action. Sometimes, when everything is said and done, she asks herself, “‘Was that deja vu? Did I just see that on TV? No…I just did that!'”