While many in the policing profession prefer documentary police shows like 48 Hours, that offer an opportunity to review cases of other officers and compare notes on investigative techniques, my preference in watching a show is more for entertainment and inspiration. One of my favorite police shows, Blue Bloods definitely provides entertainment and inspiration, yet it offers more than that. Becoming blue bloods, the life we chose and those choices impacting and influencing those around us is what this show examines.
Favorite Police Shows Influencing Perceptions
Growing up watching shows like Adam 12 and Dragnet that had a strong theme of modeling the ideals of police conduct and values greatly influenced my thinking about policing long before entering into a policing career. Though these shows did not match the darker aspects of policing; those early impressions of strong ethics and standards provided a foundation to refer back to, especially when the real socialization process did not always mirror those high standards.
In looking at the main characters in the show, Police Commissioner Frank Reagan projects positive, yet uncompromising leadership, expecting high standards from his officers, yet holding himself to even higher standards. He exhibits decisiveness, self-discipline, an iron clad moral compass tested through the experience of making difficult choices and like all great leaders, learns about and works to bring out the best in those around him. He is conscious of responsibility he carries and thinks ahead about potential consequences resulting from his decisions, based upon the knowledge gained on the beat.
A Look into Styles of Policing
Detective Danny Reagan, the older son, portrays the old school veteran crime fighter. He is single minded and driven to catch bad guys, cynical and frequently contemptuous of what he sees as coddling criminals. Gruff and impatient, he is rough with suspects and comes across as less than sympathetic to victims. Even with that negative aspect, he sacrifices his personal life and safety to both protect the victimized and catch those who victimize.
He struggles to maintain his marriage and be a father to his children while fighting to retain his humanity. We also see the strain of being married to someone in policing. Anxiety and fear over the danger the officer faces, the irregular hours and financial pressures are presented well by Danny’s wife Linda. Through her, we see the impact of an officer’s death in the line of duty has on an officer’s wife, as well as her support of the officer’s widow.
Younger son, Jaime Reagan represents the idealism and sometimes naïve perspective of rookies. His character is also a look into the community oriented policing with a greater emphasis on education, focus on connecting with people, problem solving rather than narrowly focused on crime fighting through arrests. As his character develops, we gain a small glimpse into the blue blood socialization process.
Police Socialization-Inside and Outside of the Agency
Mentorship by a veteran officer, who shows him the ropes, yet demands and preserves duty, honor and integrity, is a very positive force in the development of good officers. The negative socialization can be seen dealing with peers or supervisors who cross the line. For example excessive force, laziness or cowardice, seeking to cover it up or straight out corruption. Socialization leads to pressures to overlook transgressions, join in the corruption or face shunning and worse. This is not limited to within the policing agency.
Daughter Erin, a prosecuting attorney brings a look into the world of the criminal justice system and the interplay of politics that unfortunately affects the world of policing and fighting crime. The show touches upon the shades of gray involving witnesses, victims and political figures influencing the criminal justice process. Her character frequently brings to light the often conflicting forces between police and the judicial system. The positive aspect being a check to ensure police adhere to rules of evidence, preserve civil rights and present well substantiated cases, the negative being caught up in lawyerly manipulation, rather than promoting justice.
Blue Bloods The Life We Chose-Bringing it all together
One of the greatest challenges faced by the criminal justice system is the breakdown of the support system of today’s youth, the family. Many of the children and young adults that end up in the criminal justice system have not had positive role models or adult support to enable them to make better choices for themselves. Most of the cultural exposure they receive is hedonistic, ever more outrageous behavior from various stars and media idols. Parents who do engage with their children find very few options on television that the whole family could watch together and enjoy.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the show, Blue Bloods, is that it presents a believable, positive model of a family, a look into the changing culture and challenges within policing. While some of the police procedures and tactics have been dramatized, it can be an avenue to promote discussion and teachable moments for families that watch it. Much like Adam 12 and Dragnet, rather than slavish adherence to the reality of policing, the value lies in presenting the ideals of sacrifice, duty, honor and integrity and the exercise of those ideals presented in admirable characters demonstrating those qualities. It is not surprising that Blue Bloods has become a favorite police show for families to watch together.
What do you look for in a favorite police show? What do you like about Blue Bloods? If you could design your own police show what aspects of policing would it focus on? What are the positive and negative aspects of an idealized view of policing? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.