‘Action Cops’ Are Less Entertaining as Drug War Wanes

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Just as Jack Webb’s partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department on “Dragnet” and “Adam-12” benefited both Hollywood and the police, the drug war united pop culture and real law enforcement agencies in a new common purpose, the Washington Post reports. The prospect of foreign drug traffickers invading U.S. shores gave pop-culture cops a new and more dangerous enemy to fight, one that justified fast driving, explosive shootouts, and all sorts of audience-thrilling rule-breaking. In return, Hollywood promoted the idea that drugs posed a grave threat that justified new, frightening police tactics and the erosion of basic rights.

Now, as the U.S. tries to reckon with the consequences of a militarized style of policing that has turned some neighborhoods into occupied zones and normalized the idea that police officers might burst into private homes without warning, the rise of the action cop looks less entertaining and more sinister. In fighting narcotics, real police departments and the entertainment industry developed a damaging habit of their own, glamorizing gun-slinging cops who treat the citizens they serve like a dangerous enemy, the Post says.

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