50 Years Ago a Pro-Cop Hollywood Legend Sent This Astounding Letter to the US Senate


King Solomon once wisely proclaimed, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Such is definitely the case regarding the current hostility from some segments of society toward police officers.

Though something that has changed is the attitude many in the Democratic Party and the entertainment industry have toward the thin blue line.

The late 1960s was another period in U.S. history when those in law enforcement were targeted, while at the same time the pro-police drama “Dragnet” was one of the most popular shows on television.

The series centered on the exploits of Los Angeles police Sgt. Joe Friday, played by Hollywood fixture Jack Webb, who also produced and directed the series.

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In early February 1967, Webb sent copies of a portion of a script from an episode set to air later that week to U.S. senators.

The script excerpt featured a monologue from Friday titled, “What Is a Cop?”

Then-Democratic Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina spoke about the script excerpt and a letter accompanying it from Webb in a speech on the Senate floor.

“In the past few months we’ve heard a phrase so often repeated in the news media it’s become a household word. The phrase is ‘police brutality,'” Hollings began.

“It has become the battle cry for groups of so-called peaceful demonstrators who are in reality no more than organized lawbreakers,” he continued.

“We have seen this mythical ‘police brutality’ used as justification for rioting, destruction of private property and the obstruction of police officers doing their lawful duty,” Hollings said.

The senator’s words could easily be transposed into our current times, though I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Democrat who would say what he said.

Obviously, the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody is not a myth. Officer Derek Chauvin disgraced his badge and betrayed the public trust.

He and other officers who engage in misconduct should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

That said, the exceptions have been seized upon by leftists, anarchists and even Democratic officeholders to denigrate police officers writ large and used as justification to defund them from New York City to Los Angeles.

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Webb felt that a similar hostility shown toward law enforcement in his day came in part due to a lack of comprehension of what officers face in the normal course of their public service.

“In view of the increasing disregard for both the law and its enforcement in our society today, it seems to me of vital importance that efforts be made to narrow the gap in understanding which exists between some segments of the public and the police — their police,” Webb wrote in his letter to Hollings and other senators.

He explained that as an actor playing a police officer, he would not presume to know how those in law enforcement truly felt.

“However, the dozen or so officers in the Los Angeles Police Department and Police Commission who have seen the film containing the speech have unanimously indicated that it is a thoroughly accurate reflection of their own feelings about police work and their jobs.”

The LAPD, in fact, had asked permission for the clip to be used as part of its training of police recruits at its academy, according to the actor.

The speech “What Is a Cop?” occurs during an interrogation by Friday and his sidekick, Officer Bill Gannon, of a detective accused of robbing a liquor store during stakeout duty.

Friday began by acknowledging the life of police officer is not easy, on or off duty.

“It’s awkward having a policeman around the house,” he said. “Friends drop in, a man with a badge answers the door, the temperature drops 20 degrees. You throw a party and that badge gets in the way. All of a sudden, there isn’t a straight man in the crowd. Everybody’s a comedian.”

Beyond the ribbing, police are often just outright disrespected.

“All at once, you lost your first name. You’re a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law, you’re the fuzz, the heat, you’re poison, you’re trouble, you’re bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman,” Friday said.

Further, law enforcement officers have to deal with the most broken parts of society.

“You’re going to rub elbows with all the elite: pimps, addicts, thieves, bums, winos, girls who can’t keep an address and men who don’t care. Liars, cheats, con men, the class of Skid Row,” Friday told the officer.

“And the heartbreak: underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken arm kids, broken leg kids, broken head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids,” he continued.

“The old people that nobody wants: the reliefers, the pensioners, the ones who walk the street cold and those who tried to keep warm and died in a three-dollar room with an unvented gas heater.”

Do you find Sgt. Joe Friday's speech compelling?

The job can be frustrating, Friday said, when the case is not solved and justice is not done, or when you’re tackling the endless paperwork that comes with the position.

“But there’s also this: There are over 5,000 men in this city who know that being a policeman is an endless, glamorless, thankless job that’s gotta be done. I know it, too, and I’m damn glad to be one of them,” he concluded.

Police work is definitely a calling, and we all should be more than grateful that so many men and women are willing to answer the call to keep us safe.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith