Monday, September 7, 2015

See The Man

"The only thing black and white about this job is the patrol car." Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner), Adam-12.

Marking the passing of TV cop Martin Milner.

It is not too strong a statement to write that the TV portrayal of Los Angeles Police Department Officer Pete Malloy, played by character actor Martin Milner, and his partner Jim Reed (Kent McCord) were directly responsible for my decision to choose law enforcement as a career path. The banter, the caring attitudes and the crisply professional LAPD drew me to follow them every week. The late 60s was a time of dramatic upheaval in the United States, but these officers seemed well-trained by a department that held them to a standard of conduct to which everyone might aspire.

One scene seemed to exemplify the allure of policing, and sealed the deal. Reed and Malloy had been sent to a "family beef" (the code for which I have long since forgotten). Upon their arrival the female half ran toward them, screaming "He has a gun." One need not be a seasoned veteran like Malloy to know who "he" was. As one the officers pushed the woman to safety and ran toward the armed husband.

This was, of course, pre-Kevlar days. Both officers were armed with revolvers. Granted, it was TV, but to an impressionable fifteen year old this represented selfless bravery, the instinctive desire to protect and serve. I would learn years later that real life cops were rarely that bold - some would say foolhardy - but I would be in far too deep by the time that lesson was imparted. All I knew was that these men ran toward danger, not away from it. I'm in.

A later episode chronicled Reed's reaction to shooting a suspect (who died). In one poignant scene he is on the phone with his wife, explaining what had happened. In the midst of it he broke down. No two officers ever react the same way, but it is not uncommon for remorse, anger, self-doubt and a little bit of guilt to creep into an officer's mind, and heart. The detailed, painstaking nature of the investigation is visited, but mostly the camera follows the young officer as he struggles to grasp the realities of his job.

Years later, the sterling tarnished a bit for LAPD. They were shown to be poorly trained (Rodney King), bumbling (OJ Simpson) and to have harbored officers who planted evidence on gang members (Rampart). They have, in many ways, resurrected themselves to a status they once occupied when Reed and Malloy patrolled their streets.

Milner himself found his way into a number of memorable movies. He was something of an ensemble player for John Wayne, appearing in several of his flicks. He reached stardom playing a police officer on TV, and made a nice career of it. He was, by all accounts, an honest and kind man.

Martin Milner has reached his end of watch. Thank you, sir, for your role in pointing me toward a rich, rewarding career. I would have been proud to call you a brother in blue.
"Pete Malloy: The only thing black and white about this job is the car." - See more at:

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