Gimme the ol' time cop shows; who needs cops in aprons?

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As a gift to each other, my wife and I subscribed to an online, streaming movie provider, which was supposed to help cut down on our movie rental costs. What we didn't realize, however, is that it would also allow me to watch classic television shows.

By classic I mean to say, really bad cop shows from the '70s and '80s.

New police shows are too moody and too scientific. In the old shows with big cars and cops who solved cases with guts and luck, the heroes pretty much had one mood. They expressed this mood by yelling "Freeze sucker!"

I'm not sure why I like these shows. I suppose it's because I like the idea of "good guys" catching "bad guys." I cherish the thought that police officers, detectives and wrongfully court-martialed soldiers do battle with the forces of evil that are seeking to exploit the weak and defenseless, chasing them through a porcupine-infested hell if necessary.

I also like the old cars, which is honestly why I drive a late-'70s Mercury. My wife hates it but lets me keep the beast so I won't perform mechanical operations on her car.

It is my dream to take my aging Mercury to one of those driving schools where I can learn how to slide through corners and perform high-speed J-turns. Eventually I may even get some fuzzy dice and a pair of aviator glasses.

Of course, car chases on television and in film are nothing like chases in real life, a point brought home by several local high-speed pursuits last month, one of which ended in a collision that sent three people to the hospital.

As good guys and bad guys careen through busy movie streets, we never learn the fate of the dozens of extras left in the wake. We assume the actors union has some safety net in place.

In real life, the aftermath tends to become the only focus. In fact, when criminals injure innocent bystanders, it leads people to questions the wisdom, even the morality, of pursuing them.

Some have suggested that if police know the suspect driver is a flight risk, they should back off and let the "bad guy" go, thereby avoiding unnecessary pain and hardship.

It's a valid concern, and I think it really extends beyond car chases to policing in general. So often, as I read through police reports I see incidents in which suspected criminals compound their crimes by reacting badly to the very presence of police officers.

You may be wondering why, as I often do. But I think it's because officers wear uniforms, which are very much like military garb. They also carry weapons, handcuffs, badges, radios and other miscellaneous gear, all of which is pretty intimidating. No doubt criminals are simply reacting to a perceived threat.

A recent news article from Chippewa Falls, Wis., highlights my point.

"A police officer wearing an apron and rolling dough is definitely not an intimidating sight," wrote Alicia Yager of the Chippewa Herald. "And that is the main idea behind the Chippewa Falls Police Department's Cookies with Cops program ..."

This ground-breaking program is an effort to introduce young people to police in a non-threatening way by having kids and cops bake cookies together.

Just think. If the people involved in the recent car chase downtown had thought police officers just wanted to share baked goods instead of arrest them, they likely would not have fled.

Maybe it's time local law enforcement officers thought of wearing aprons, or better yet, robes and flip-flop sandals. They could stand around handing out cookies and motivational tracts about living to our highest potential and loving our fellow men.

Police stations could become counseling centers where officers give motivational lectures and perform amusing skits that illustrate the importance of good behavior. Our police station could, in essence, become more like Switzerland.

Switzerland has not been invaded by a foreign nation for decades, despite being one of the world's richest nations with great pastry and some of the world's best chocolate.

Some people will try to claim it's because the Swiss people are fiercely independent, heavily armed and live in one of the remotest nations on earth.

This is silly. As everyone knows, it's because they already have all the money and chocolate, not to mention great ski resorts. Nobody wants to risk cutting off the supply of sweets, alienating their bankers and losing ski resort privileges.

Our police should revamp the station by turning it into a resort spa destination, with therapeutic massage, fitness classes and holistic yoga.

It could be wonderful for the tax base, and would be a great place for people to unwind after a hard day's night prowling the streets. Which we'd have to do just to get our stuff back.

And maybe, just maybe, criminals would be enticed into stopping by for a visit and a relaxing dip in the jacuzzi. Then someone could slip a correctional tract into their gym bag, or send a note home to their mother.

No doubt, if this new policing model catches on it will severely impact how Hollywood portrays police chases, but then I might finally be able to give up my boat of a car and start driving something sensible. Or I might just have to start watching westerns.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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