“Do What You Gotta Do”: Cop Shows Bolster Idea That Police Violence Works

By Aaron Cantu

courtesy OpenClipArt

courtesy OpenClipArt

The new NBC series “Chicago PD” (created by Dick Wolf, the man behind “Law and Order”) opens with steel-eyed Detective Sgt. Hank Voight glaring coolly into a rearview mirror from the backseat of a car. We quickly learn that the man driving the vehicle isn’t chauffeuring Voight around by choice.

“I don’t know where I’m going,” whimpers the driver, a young man with a bloodied face and a seemingly broken right arm.

“Just keep driving,” gruffs Voight.

When the two finally pull off into an empty gravel lot, Voight grabs the man by a tuft of hair and yanks him out of the driver’s seat. The sergeant slaps and kicks the young man around until he crumbles to the ground in a sobbing heap.

“Who’s puttin’ out the bad dope?” Voight snarls, and when he follows up by pressing a handgun to the quivering man’s face, the latter finally relents.

“His name is Ralph! He deals out of his apartment in South Emerald!”

Within a minute and a half of the first episode, the show has summed up its central message: Police violence works. This is relayed again and again throughout the series: When a cop with a chain-wrapped fist savagely beats a Spanish-speaking suspect demanding an attorney until he relinquishes a tip; when officers debase the idea of policing without intent to arrest; when cops round up black non-criminals and deliver them to precinct torture chambers. In every episode, these methods achieve the desired ends. The message: Police violence works.

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