A Worthy Subplot in a Cop Show

There are a lot of cop shows on TV these days. Also a bunch of lawyer shows, which are hard to tell from the cop shows. All about bringing bad guys to justice. In these shows, it would be terribly inconvenient if the suspect du jour asked for a lawyer rather than confessing. It would be even more inconvenient if the police had to follow rules of evidence or even get a warrant to search a place.

A pithy phrase that I didn’t make up but don’t know where I first heard it and now can only approximate: That legal technicality you’re complaining about is actually a civil right. These are rules to prevent cops from punching you in the face until you confess, to prevent cops from planting evidence or destroying evidence. These aren’t technicalities, they are what protect us from tyranny. Whenever they are discussed disparagingly, the speaker is undermining your freedom and mine. This is never as obvious as it is on cop shows.

So a great minor arc in some big, overblown cop drama would be the Evil Judge Who Doesn’t Give Boss Cop What He Wants. Boss Cop smacks a guy and ransacks his apartment, and Evil Judge reprimands Boss Cop and the guy walks! Holy crap where is justice!? Boss Cop asks for a warrant and doesn’t get one; Evil Judge is a hardass that way. Jesus how’s a cop supposed to do his job with all this law getting in the way?

Boss Cop still gets the bad guy; Boss Cop is a badass. It’s just more work. Boss Cop is always right, though.

So by episode six of the season Evil Judge is not well-liked by the viewing public. What’s his problem? Does he hate America? Is the mob paying him off?

Then… the twist that must happen in every cop drama. Boss Cop stands accused. It looks bad; evidence against him is coming out of nowhere! What the hell? That’s not real! End of episode nine: Facing damning evidence, Boss Cop walks into court and sees Evil Judge presiding (this is unrealistic, they would know the judge long before, but this is TV after all). His nemesis! Evil Judge knows how Boss Cop feels about him.

Next episode: Evil Judge turns his skeptical eye on the evidence presented by the prosecution. Shakes his head. Chucks out the case. “No substance,” he says, “Numerous violations of civil rights.” Or something only slightly more subtle.

The courtroom rises to a frenzy, but the noise fades as Boss Cop and Evil Judge exchange a look across the well. “Always remember,” Evil Judge communicates with a wise smile, “it could be you.”

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