TV trope or gritty realism?

I’m currently binge-watching Law and Order on WGN and was reminded of something that seems to exist in every cop show or procedural. Whenever a suspect is cuffed and brought to a police car, one of the arresting police places a hand on the suspect’s head before he/she gets into the car.

It’s as if they mean to protect the person from bumping their head, but I’ve always wondered: is this necessary? Do folks not have enough coordination with wrists manacled behind or in front, to keep from banging noggins on police car doors? What is up with this custom? Is it done IRL or is it just a habit of TV directors/writers?

No answer from me, but a comment. I think it looks more aggressive than you say. I don’t think it looks like a way to make sure they don’t bump their head, but forcing someone who is struggling (or has the potential to struggle) to get in the car. In other words, it’s more a way to prevent the criminal from keeping his head out and preventing the door from being shut.

Why not test it yourself? Hold your hands together behind your back and sit in the back of a 4 door car. Then try it holding your hands together in front. I suspect most people get in the back seat of a car with a hand holding the door or the jamb or maybe a hand on the seat as they’re easing themselves in.

They only do that when cameras are rolling. When all alone (and out of sight from hidden camera phones), cops have no problem at all thumping the suspect’s head against the door frame, sometimes making it seem accidental, sometimes not even bothering with that much. They don’t always do it, but if you mouth off to the cops or they don’t like your skin color, you may as well expect it.

Take it from someone who’s a first-hand witness.

Yeah, I wondered if it was for show. The epi I was watching had a church lady cuffed and put in the car. The arresting office said Watch your head before palming the top of her head as she got in. Don’t know if he would have been rougher with her if she’d not been a church lady, but this custom seems robe across the board.

In the episode of* Everybody Loves Raymond* where Robert proposed to Amy, he very softly put his hand on her head and bent her down to get into the car.

From personal experience: The police will put you in back seat and they will prevent your head from striking the door jamb when they do. If you are resisting, then your head might connect with the door jamb “accidentally”; but the cops will rarely risk a brutality beef in their jacket,especially if they are career-oriented and looking to advance.

There’s also the facts that:

[li]Most departments have cameras in squad car recording arrests - If you are roughed up, it can make valuable evidence go out the window as the footage would have to excise the portions where the police assaulted you.[/li][li]Cops often tell on other cops - To make certain that they don’t take any of teh weight for a brutal asshole, cops will rat out an officer who roughs up suspects in their presence. Thin Blue Line or not, nobody wants to endanger their job or their pension for someone who can’t control himself/herself.[/li][li]Many arrests take place in front of witnesses - You rough up suspects unnecessarily in front of witnesses, you are risking your badge. Most cops won’t risk that just to teach someone they dislike a “lesson”, especially in front of witnesses.[/li][/ol]

I’m not a big fan of the police for a wide range of reasons. However, I have never seen one intentionally hurt a suspect who they ere placing in a vehicle.

Two of the comments here are sort of at opposite ends of the spectrum on “What To Expect When You’re Being Arrested”. I’m betting that has a lot to do with differences in how cops work in different departments/cities/whichever. I talk to a guy online who is a Sheriff’s Deputy in a town nearish to LA, and he talks about the vast differences in culture, situation, etc. from one town’s police department to the next which inform how the cops and locals act towards each other.

But yeah, overall, I’d say it’s probably two parts keeping the suspect from hitting his head for various reasons (suspect isn’t used to getting in a car without use of his hands, suspect might try to injure himself to make the cops look bad, etc.) and one part enforcing their position of dominance (rather than let the suspect get in the car themselves, the cops make it clear that it is the cop putting the suspect in the car).

IANACorS (I Am Not A Cop or Suspect)

I think it has to do more with what color you are and what part of town you live in…

I can’t remember if the cop did it to me … my one and only arrest was almost 30 years ago.

I do remember being shocked that I could ride in the front seat. Either he didn’t think a little woman as dangerous or he was afraid I’d bite him on the neck.

Ironically he was fired for sexual assault of female suspects many years later.

I agree that is a combination of both.

One interesting thing to add from my work in the automotive industry.

One of the design guidelines for the Ford Crown Victoria (widely used a a police vehicle in it’s day) specified that the rear door openings had to be squared off rather than slanted (as most modern 4 sedan did) in part to facilitate the easier entry of someone in handcuffs.

It probably was also appreciated by older consumers, since it made the entry easier regardless and tended to keep the overall design a little more boxy looking.

I’ve watched a whole lot of COPS and they almost always do this. My guess though is if cameras are not rolling they don’t worry much about smashing your head in the door frame or accidently jamming a night stick into your rib cage.

[quote=“nevadaexile, post:7, topic:683668”]

[li]Cops often tell on other cops - To make certain that they don’t take any of teh weight for a brutal asshole, cops will rat out an officer who roughs up suspects in their presence. Thin Blue Line or not, nobody wants to endanger their job or their pension for someone who can’t control himself/herself.[/li][/QUOTE]

Oh, if only it were so.

Whenever I placed an arrestee in the back of my patrol car, I never put my hand on their head or guided them in. Just told them to put their ass in first as if sitting in a chair, then swing the legs in. Worked every time. If they were being combative, well, they got in the car by any means necessary.

I hate to interrupt the bashing by those who seem to enjoy it. If you want to believe that it is standard practice to bash peoples heads when they get into the back of a car knock yourself out. So to speak.

In reality yes it’s often necessary to guide someone in so they don’t bang their head. Without using their hands people tend to flop down in the backseat and they are often not nearly as graceful as they think.

Then there is the problem with modern police cars. There is more equipment and the cars are smaller. The area in the back in now very small. Anyone slightly larger than average will usually have to be guided in ass first then have their legs swing in. If your feet are larger than a ten you will probably have to turn them sideways. It’s hard to do cuffed without help unless you are decently limber and athletic.

With the old Chevy Caprice that was still in service when I first came on you could have a high school band march through there with no problem.

Loach - My neighbor is a county sheriff. He gave me a ride home in his patrol car, and I was shocked at how little leg room is back there. I’m 5’1" and I thought it was cramped. I can’t imagine how a 6’5" bruiser would fit! He told me the comfort of those riding in the back wasn’t a big concern for him. :wink:


True comfort isn’t a big concern. So any discomfort does not last long. But actually getting some people in there (and out) can be a problem. For big guys getting them out is sometimes a three person job. And that’s when they are cooperative.

In our cars, the entire rear seat was removed and a plastic pan shaped like a seat was installed. It created much more room and was impervious to vomit, urine, feces, blood, spit, etc. Because it was plastic, the arrestee kinda just slid on in. It even had drain holes in the bottom that facilitated cleaning with a hose.

Additionally, I don’t recall purposely bashing someone’s head on the door frame. I actually had a modicum of professionalism and took pride in my job. The cop-bashing (no pun intended) is very tired.

It seems here they make a new decision on that with every new car they get. We have some that have the solid plastic seat which is a very good idea. But most of the others don’t. Our newer Ford Taurus models have a half cage which allows for the officer to put their seat back further but leaves even less room in the back. Of course only one person can be transported in the back of those models.

It’s a hijack, but I have to ask:

Do you have the Police Interceptor ones? I haven’t even seen one on the road yet. Do you like them?