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Chicago P.D.: 5 Things That Are Accurate (& 5 Things That Are Fictional)

Most of Chicago P.D. is fictional, rather than being based off what the police actually do. However, some of it is based on the truth.

A spinoff from the popular Chicago Fire TV show, Chicago P.D. focuses on a police intelligence unit run by Detective Sergeant Henry “Hank” Voight.  Introduced as a dirty cop in Chicago Fire, he uses the same morally questionable methods to catch criminals and other more corrupt cops which the other members of his unit practice as well.

For this reason, the Chicago P.D. series has been heavily criticized for its inaccuracies about police work in general.  Yet there are grains of truth buried underneath, which are explored further below alongside the aspects of this show that aren’t true.

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10 Accurate - Racial Tensions Between White Cops And Ethnic Minorities Is An Existing Problem

 

With Season 5 of Chicago P.D., a stronger attempt was made by the show to replicate what was going on in the real world regarding policemen.  For instance, the premier episode had a scene where a member of Voight’s unit named Adam Ruzek (who’s white) draws a gun on a young black man but gets defused by Kevin Atwater (the only black guy in Voight’s unit).

In recent years, it has come to the public’s attention that racial tensions between white cops and members of an ethnic minority still happens in places like Chicago which have a long history of gang violence and police corruption.  This wasn’t further helped by a report that came out from the US Department of Justice in 2017 which criticized several things about the CPD including using “Force against black Chicagoans 10 times more frequently than their white counterparts,” The Atlantic magazine states.

9 Fictional - Cops Have The Authority To Deny A Lawyer To Their Suspect

Despite Chicago P.D.’s attempts at being realistic, it still resorts to common cliches found in other police detective shows like denying a lawyer to an unscrupulous suspect or criminal when they request one.  Legally, this is problematic in reality as any suspect in a crime has the right to speak to a lawyer if they request one, even before they give testimony to the police, and therefore denying them could be considered a rights violation.

Though in the state of Arizona, “A defendant does not have the right to delay the investigation by demanding to speak to a lawyer and if an attorney cannot be reached at the time being, the investigative procedures may be initiated” when it comes to DUI offense cases according to a Phoenix DUI Lawyer.  The reason for this is that if the investigation takes too long, then whatever drug or alcohol may be affecting the suspect will lose its influence thus making it harder to determine their guilt.  But this does not apply to criminal cases like the ones in the Chicago P.D..

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8 Accurate - Cops Do Get Involved In Fatal Shootouts

Being known for its action-packed sequences, Chicago P.D. will occasionally thrust its characters into a crazy shootout that results in people getting hurt or even killed.  Though the frequency of these shootouts in the series is questionable, that doesn’t mean cops don’t get involved in them.

Within a city like Chicago, for instance, the number of shootings per year is incredibly high on average.  But according to a recent report by the actual Chicago Police Department on WTTV Chicago Public Media, “There have been 978 shootings through the first six months of the year…marking an 11% drop over 2018” which isn’t much of a change overall.

7 Fictional - Police Intelligence Units Get A Lot Of Action

It seems like Voight’s unit can never catch a break on Chicago P.D. as almost every day of the week they’re out busting criminals and investigating crime scenes with the occasional shootouts.  But contrary to what the show displays, a real police intelligence unit doesn’t do much in terms of action.

What they primarily do is gather information on possible criminals and hand it over to different agencies whether they’re local state or federal authorities.  They may investigate crime scenes for clues, interview witnesses, or obtain search warrants, but they don’t make arrests or prove crimes.

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6 Accurate - Accidentally Fatal Shootings Do Happen With The Police

Because the characters in Chicago P.D. are morally flawed, the show will go out of its way to either justify their actions or put them in a situation that makes them seem sympathetic.  In the Season 5 premier episode “Reform,” for instance, one of Voight’s unit members named Jay Halstead accidentally shoots a young girl during a shootout with some gunrunners.

While this could be interpreted as a cheap way to make us feel sorry for Jay, who didn’t mean to shoot the girl, it does happen to cops in the real world.  In 2015, a woman named Bettie Jones was fatally shot by a CPD cop by accident along with a man who was causing a domestic disturbance according to the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.

5 Fictional - Handcuffed Suspects Can Be Freely Assaulted By Cops

It is common to see handcuffed suspects getting assaulted by cops in movies like L.A. Confidential or TV shows such as Chicago P.D., but generally this is not how suspects are treated once they’ve been brought into custody.  While they may be considered dangerous, due to the possibility of concealing a weapon or resisting arrest, that doesn’t mean policemen can wail on them like free punching bags.

However, there have been instances where cops have assaulted handcuffed suspects even to this day, but they typically don’t get away with it.  Instead, they get charged with misdemeanor and/or assault and are ordered to leave the department.

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4 Accurate - People With Questionable Backgrounds Have Been Put In Charge Of Overseeing The CPD

In the fifth season of Chicago P.D., a new character was introduced named Denny Woods.  An independent auditor hired to oversee the CPD, he exploits his power to get back at Voight (whom he was partners with as a former cop) for a prior event.

Now it may seem unbelievable that someone with a questionable background could be given the responsibility of overseeing a police department in the real world, but it does happen.  For instance, a former federal prosecutor was put in charge of Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force a few years ago and this was met with some controversy following “Distortions of her record” according to the Chicago Reporter.

3 Fictional - Desk Sergeants Have A Lot Of Authority

Aside from Voight, another character that made an official debut in Chicago Fire before appearing in Chicago P.D. was Trudy Platt.  A Desk Sergeant for the Chicago Police Department, in general, she supervises patrol officers like Kim Burgess and Sean Roman while occasionally interacting with Voight’s unit.

Now while she does live up to her title in terms of primarily working at a desk, Platt’s authority isn’t as significant as the show makes it seem like.  In reality, a Desk Sergeant (or Desk Officer) receives information about incoming incidents and then dispatches it to patrols. So Platt wouldn’t necessarily be tasked with supervising other officers, as this would mainly be the Police Sergeant’s duty which is a different position altogether.

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2 Accurate - Cops Have Been Known To Torture Criminals In Certain Cases

One of the main criticisms aimed at Chicago P.D. is that almost every criminal Voight’s team takes into custody gets tortured in some form whether it’s physically or psychologically.  Now this kind of behavior is ethically inexcusable, especially for a cop to commit since it violates certain rights the perceived criminal has whether they committed the crimes they’re accused of or not.

While such tactics are frowned upon by just about every police department in the world, there were cases where cops did torture perceived criminals regardless of their innocence.  Recently, a digital archive was released that documented incidents between 1972 and 1991 where CPD “Officers performed torture” on people they arrested as stated by The Atlantic.

1 Fictional - Physical And Psychological Torture Is Always Used By Cops To Get Information From Suspects

 

When it comes to interrogating a suspect of a crime, the police will use different methods to get the information they want out of them.  However, they will not resort to things like torture either in the physical or psychological form as conducted by Voight’s unit in the Chicago P.D. show.

Though cases of police torture have come to light, it’s not an approved method for conducting an interrogation.  At most, a cop will intimidate a suspect using the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” technique but they typically won’t resort to using physical violence or blackmail for the sake of getting a confession.

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