There's no doubt that TV police shows have come on a long way since the days of Dixon Of Dock Green, Z Cars and the like. Policemen are tougher and crooks are less likely to say: "you got me bang to rights copper" than: "come and get me copper, there's a sawn-off shot gun just waiting for you". More importantly, the theme music has changed. Whereas the Z Cars tune went "Do-de-do de-do-dodo-do", Hill Street Blues is more of a "Duh-do-do duh-do-do duh-do-do-do-do-do-de-duh-do-do". An important difference as I'm sure you'll agree.
As well as changes in language and tune there's also been a change in content. In the old days of black Wolseleys and "will you come quietly sir?" programmes used to concentrate on a single case per episode. In these days of a-quick-truncheon-across-the knee-caps-and-we'll-talk-about-the-lawyer-later programmes like The Bill and Hill Street Blues tend to be more about day to day station life rather than single cases. Realism is the order of the day. This 'day in the life' approach of Hill Street Blues has been borne in mind by Krisalis when converting from TV screen to monitor (or, if you prefer, from programme to program). They have produced a game somewhat in the Sim City mould where you try to maintain law and order on your precinct in the face of the sort of crime wave that would make Dirty Harry take a bath.
You start the game with a blank sheet - no crime, no discontent and no chance of things staying that way. By placing a number of rookie cops you can keep an eye on certain areas but your main work is in crisis response. (Now there's a good American sounding phrase if ever I heard one.) There now follows a step by step guide to the chain of events leading from the perpetration of a crime to the bit when you get to throw the criminal in the slammer.
The first you know of a crime (unless you stumble across a body) is when radio-controller Hill calls all units to the scene of a crime. Then it's time to go to police HQ and click on the computer. There you'll learn the type of crime, ranging from bag snatching to serial killing (the great Sugar Puffs Slaughter ho ho ho... oh please yourselves), and see a photo-fit of the suspect. (Except in the case of a murder - when death has somewhat interfered with the key witness's ability to testify.)
By selecting a character from the digitised pictures of all your TV faves (that's faves from Hill Street Blues not from TV in general - sadly you can't set Paul Daniels on the trail of a psychopathic serial killer such as Sad Eyed Stan The Shreddies Strangler). (Shut up. And stop using all these brackets. Ed.) A quick check of the map will show the scene of the crime and you can send the officer, or officers, hurrying along by car or foot.
When you arrive at the scene it's time for a nosey round looking for suspects. If the crime is a murder or mugging, your first priority is to find the body and then summon either the coroner or paramedics. Alter all, the sight of bodies lying around the streets is not likely to fill Joe Public with confidence in your abilities as Chief of Police. Besides which, mugging victims are likely to feel a little hacked off if they have to pick themselves up and hobble all the way home.
If you're lucky, a prowl round the scene of the crime will reveal a character with arrows pointing at him. Bit of a give away that one, so with barely a pause to say hello (hello hello) you should arrest him. (Unless of course you're a member of the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, in which case you'll arrest the first person you come across and beat a confession out of them instead.) In the absence of helpful arrows you might have to do a bit of thinking. Is anyone behaving suspiciously, i.e, lurking in the shadows, running away from you or carrying a large bag marked 'swag'? If so, you can radio a description back to HQ , and if it matches any suspects you can make an arrest. Petty criminals tend to come quietly (it's a fair cop guv). More Macca-ish violent offenders might make a run for it (or pull a gun on you). Fortunately you have the option to open fire and gun them down. If things get really sticky you can even call in the SWAT team and really let fly. This saves you all the hassle of a court case.
Most petty criminals tend to confess the moment they cross the threshold of the Police HQ. However, your murderer is made of sterner stuff (and can afford a decent lawyer). To get him or her slapped away behind bars you'll need to pull them out of an identity parade and then rely on the vagaries of the jury system to produce the verdict you want.
Now this step by step guide might sound fairly straightforward. "This police lark's a doddle," I hear you cry, "next stop the DA's office." Ah, but this is a description of just one officer dealing with one case. In Hill Street Blues you're dealing with nine officers. Criminals don't wait for you to solve one crime before getting on with the next. Cases keep piling up faster than you can push a luggage trolley. Even with a few lucky breaks and skilled detective work, unsolved crimes will inevitably outnumber available officers. Repeat offenders will become increasingly confident, crimes will become more serious and if you're not on the ball your job security will become somewhat tenuous.
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