Show Business: The View from the Real World

"Hey, man, you didn't handle that one the way Columbo would have!"

"Look, sergeant, if I was Inspector Erskine [of The FBI], I would of had him for sure!"

Such is the cop-shop banter on the Atlanta police force, says Sergeant W.E. Wood of the metropolitan narcotics squad. Like Wood, many real-life police officers, detectives and lawyers enjoy watching their fictionalized counter parts on television. "We watch Columbo and others," says Atlanta Assistant District Attorney Ross Hawkins, "be cause it makes our jobs a little more palatable to watch someone who does always get his man."

Most real-life lawmen, however, find that TV...

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