Tuesday, May 28

The Debunker: Are People Only Considered "Missing" After 24 Hours?

by Ken Jennings

Unless you’ve dedicated a lot of time to breaking the law, most of what you know about the cops comes from movies and TV, and those may or may not be just the facts, ma’am. All month, Ken Jennings will be exploring the “thin blue line” between police fact and police fiction. If you actually thought this stuff was true—well, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the comments section.

Police Myth #4: You Have to Be Gone for 24 Hours to Be a “Missing Person.”

You’ve seen it in any number of TV and movie dramas: the frustrated loved one getting turned away from a precinct when they try to report a kidnapping. “I’m sorry, (sir/ma’am),” says the unhelpful desk sergeant. “Until (he/she) has been missing for 24 hours, we can’t file a missing persons report. Just go home. I’m sure your (lover/child/confused elderly person) will turn up.” Can you believe it? The red tape! The bureaucracy! We the viewers, of course, already know that the missing person in question is in a (car trunk/sex dungeon/shallow grave near the highway). The suspense mounts.

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Tuesday, May 21

The Debunker: When You're Arrested, Are You Entitled to One Phone Call?

by Ken Jennings

Unless you’ve dedicated a lot of time to breaking the law, most of what you know about the cops comes from movies and TV, and those may or may not be just the facts, ma’am. All month, Ken Jennings will be exploring the “thin blue line” between police fact and police fiction. If you actually thought this stuff was true—well, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the comments section.

Police Myth #3: When You’re Arrested, You Get One Phone Call.

Police arrests in movies and TV shows are always followed by a phone call—for dramatic purposes, I assume. We need to see the ne’er-do-well tearily confessing his downfall to a parent or spouse or co-conspirator. (Or lawyer, I guess, but that seems to happen less often in the movies than it does in real life.) This cliché has become so deeply engrained in the popular imagination that arrestees—in movies and in real life as well—now know to ask for “my phone call,” as if they are entitled to exactly one.

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Tuesday, May 14

The Debunker: Do Police Outline Dead Bodies in Chalk?

by Ken Jennings

Unless you’ve dedicated a lot of time to breaking the law, most of what you know about the cops comes from movies and TV, and those may or may not be just the facts, ma’am. All month, Ken Jennings will be exploring the “thin blue line” between police fact and police fiction. If you actually thought this stuff was true—well, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the comments section.

Police Myth #2: Police Mark Murder Sites with Chalk Outlines.

If you’re ever murdered, don’t worry about trying to strike some hilarious pose. The old cliché of the tape or chalk silhouette might be a nice visual crutch for a cop movie or TV show, but the police aren’t supposed to outline murder victims anymore, if they ever were.

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Tuesday, May 07

The Debunker: Do Undercover Cops Have To Identify Themselves?

by Ken Jennings

In 1962, a joint resolution of Congress made the third week of May “National Police Week,” a time to recognize the sacrifices made by the nation’s law enforcement officers. But let’s face it: unless you’ve dedicated a lot of time to breaking the law, most of what you know about the cops comes from movies and TV, and those may or may not be just the facts, ma’am. All month, Ken Jennings will be exploring the “thin blue line” between police fact and police fiction. If you actually thought this stuff was true—well, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the comments section.

Police Myth #1: Undercover Cops Have to Identify Themselves When Asked.

If everything you know about police procedure comes from an elite social circle of hookers, pot dealers, and paranoid college activists, then you probably agree wholeheartedly with this rule of thumb: any time you suspect someone of being a plainclothes cop, you can unmask them by this clever ruse of asking them! Presumably, at that point, the unconvincing john/buyer/whatever will shake his fist impotently at you, rip off his fake mustache, and stalk off into the night, his arrest thwarted.

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