Are all cops shows authentic

Thank you, Mr. Wachtmeister!

The complaints about the crime flood on German television are old. The viewing of the television program for any crime thriller, however, mostly concentrates only on the offerings of the public broadcasters. Endless lists of the well-known series are compiled in a culture-critical eagerness. The qualitative differences between the individual formats and their different narrative patterns are hardly captured in such a criticism. It is surprising that in the debate about the media overrepresentation of crime, the mass produced scripted reality formats of the private broadcasters go unnoticed. It hardly seems worth mentioning when stories based on "real police reports" ("On patrol") about the experiences of "real officers" ("Die Straßencops - Ruhrgebiet") are drafted and "just like in real life" ("Die Ruhrpottwache" ) be told.

Formats with this focus deserve attention. Because with the scripted cop shows, reality TV has appropriated another socially relevant area after the heyday of the court shows. It is characterized by a narrative structure in which empathy with the police is developed in the joint survey of the ridiculous, despicable and absurd lives of others: The "real" police officers do not appear only as an assessment authority for socially correct behavior. In their normative view, what is to be regarded as the evil, reprehensible and ridiculous of the present is also pre-spelled out. The claim to authenticity is summarized in the formula: »This is where real police officers act. The contents are told freely after real missions «(» On patrol «).

In this combination of "real case" and "free narration", a model of criminal case stories is called: The French lawyer François Gayot de Pitaval started his project of Causes Célèbres in the 18th century to entertain the audience with the narrative processing of real criminal cases and to teach about legally tricky detailed questions, this is how his successor François Richer claimed more freedom for literary design under the formula "arranger les faits". The novellist intensification of strange cases and their exciting presentation was combined with the claim to generate historiographical and legal knowledge of the social context from the short narrative of the legal case.

»The street cops«, »On the patrol« or »Die Ruhrpottwache« on private television also follow this narrative process of the record-based representation, according to their own admission: The means used are tailored to this, via unclean sound, the peeping of personal data or a shaky hand-held camera to simulate direct storytelling from reality. The recording and interpretation of the crime in relation to its time hardly play a role anymore. Famous criminal cases have been replaced by the banality of the act of affect, which does not claim any further meaning, but is only staged as a disturbance of everyday normality.

The series generate a minimum of tension by placing the audience and the police in a confusing situation. Through the window we see a man with a gun threatening restaurant visitors; we suddenly meet an injured woman with a knife on the street; we are there when a policewoman finds an abductee's cry for help scribbled on wrapping paper in a pile of excrement. It is typical of criminal literary narration to interlock the audience's perspective with the investigators' horizon of perception. This equation of looks is combined with specific strategies of emotionalization. Because in front of the foil of their own fear and excessive demands, the level-headed approach of the police stands out all the more emphatically - they confidently ensure order, calm those involved, determine the facts, in short: they harbor emotionality and create space for rational action.

The officers are presented - in contrast to their fictional serial colleagues like Gereon Rath and Kurt Wallander or the cult police officers Toto & Harry - only as depersonalized blueprints. It is not their individual history that is relevant, but their function. Your actions make it clear that only professional expertise and the associated code of conduct enable efficient determination and an attitude towards people. What the production company promises from “Auf Streife” is kept: “The police officers take us with them to their everyday police work in Cologne. You are role model, authority figure, friend and helper at the same time «.

In this four-fold assignment of roles, the relationship between citizens and police officers is condensed and the narrative logic of these formats is compressed. It is not police officers who express themselves condescendingly or racist - as in "The Cologne Bicycle Cops" - but trustworthy representatives of the constitutional state who always control their own emotions. In contrast to the documentation that is bound by the journalistic ethos, scripted reality makes it possible to construct ideal images of civil servants who are solely responsible for investigating crimes and helping the victims. Resentment or misconduct in the service are not shown.

Due to the tight narrative timing, which does not allow for more than fifteen minutes for individual cases, there is neither time in these formats for a detailed search for clues nor a reflection on investigative practices. Recording of the facts and clarification of the case appear as a factual conversation focused on opening up the facts, which, relying on "common sense", assesses the credibility of the interviewees. It is not uncommon for this to end in an abrupt confession: "Yes, my God, it was me. But she deserves it too. "The physical presence of the police alone acts as a truth serum. Any reaction other than relieved gratitude in the face of the officers and full cooperation is marked as suspicious.

The formats thus create ideal images of the police and also stage the appropriate behavior of innocent citizens towards the police. Because their behavior is not only judged criminally, but also judged morally. This is guided by the tailoring of the exaggerated everyday cases, which fluctuate between the strange and the curious and are predominantly situated in the private vicinity. A recurring theme is sexuality. A mother forces her 17-year-old daughter to auction her virginity over the Internet, two underage girls, knowing about the father's affair, steal lingerie for their mother, a greedy granddaughter gives her own grandmother knockout drops and uses strippers as ignorant Messengers. By telling in such detail about criminal acts that arise from a lack of affect control and the destruction of the heteronormative family unit, dysfunctional families appear not only in the private, but also in the social space as an endangered and dangerous area of ​​normality.

In the border area between factual documentation and fictional representation, these scripted reality formats simulate direct participation of the audience in the "real" everyday work of the police and thus pretend to make police action transparent to the public. However, this promise is reversed in the display mode: At most, in the explanations of the police officers recorded as off-comments or the dissolution of the acronym »Spusi« for evidence security, one perceives rudiments of informative knowledge transfer. Rather, from the representation of seemingly everyday occurrences, these formats derive the pretext for capturing every tiny mistake and disruption of the social order in the wandering gaze of the law enforcement officers and subjecting them to the attention of power. This microscopic view captures scenarios which, especially in their everyday life, produce the shocked vote of the unbelievable.

These are formats that are also going into series production because they do not allow the increasingly blatant individual case to mean anything except a blatant deviation from normality. Instead of presenting the individual case as an indicator of current socio-political upheavals, these narratives insist on the ubiquity of crime, since every moment everyday people not only break the law as a result of a lack of affect control, but also violate cultural norms. The police force must always be present in their changing incarnations. The establishment of normality must never end.

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