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Five-0 Redux

Watching the detectives

One element of “Hawaii Five-0” we all love — besides the hot action and the equally smokin’ actors — is the fictional avarice and vice that police work hard to put a stop to each week.

Fans often have more to say about the police procedural’s storylines that drive each episode. They come to expect the Five-0 team to professionally handle the investigative work that goes into solving each case.

A few months ago I met someone I like to call a “Real Five-0,” an actual Honolulu Police Department detective assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division, where investigations range from murder to property crimes. He asked to remain anonymous due to his involvement in “several sensitive violent crime cases,” but I am thankful he was so open and honest about his work and how it is similar to what we see on “Hawaii Five-0.”

This detective has worked 15 years at HPD; before he joined, he worked in youth corrections for two years. He became a recruit, just like Kono Kalākaua was at the start of season one; after graduation, he worked as a patrol officer and then traffic enforcement officer before being promoted to patrol sergeant. He became a detective four years ago.

On the show, as in real life, a sergeant outranks officers and patrol personnel as the first level of supervisory management. Fans will often see Sgt. Duke Lukela at the front desk in HPD headquarters, leading officers in securing crime scenes or giving the Five-0 team preliminary reports; Det. RF0 performed the same type of duties earlier in his career.

In the “Five-0” world, we know that Det. Sgt. Daniel “Danny” Williams has been a detective since at least 2001, and between his experience in the Newark Police Department and HPD, he is obviously a seasoned cop. Lt. Commander Steven J. McGarrett spent five years in U.S. Naval Intelligence and six years with the SEALs, making his investigative experience with the Navy — albeit not police work, but detective work nonetheless — similar to Danny’s.

Chin Ho Kelly was reinstated during season one to detective lieutenant, with makes him, Danny and Steve just about equal in the experience department. While Steve outranks them in a sense (he was the one tasked with forming the Five-0 Task Force), it seems he never takes their experience and knowledge for granted while they work. He treats all of them, even Kono (who could still be considered a “rookie” of sorts), as equals.

Detective work takes a lot of time, energy and cooperation. Steve understands this, which is probably why he choose Danny, Chin, and Kono to help him get the job done.

I asked Det. RF0 what would cause HPD to set up a task force in real life.

“We rarely use them, but in a particular instance we did put one together when we had two escapees from our correctional facility last year,” he said.

He explained that instead of a task force, HPD employs what they call a detail, where officers are tasked to focus on specific areas with a need for increased public safety.

“For example, we have a burglary detail that (is currently) focused on a rash of burglaries that are occurring (on Oahu),” he said.

While the Five-0 Task Force was set up to by Gov. Jameson in season one and continued with more oversight by Gov. Denning in seasons two and three, it seems a bit more permanent in nature. And while Steve and his team are detail oriented, what they do is a bit bigger than working a detail. But I’m sure that has more to do with television magic and creating more tension and drama, so we’ll suspend our disbelief over this minor element.

Det. RF0 filled me in on a lot of different aspects of police work that mirror what we see on the show, with one big exception.

“The largest cases I’ve worked are murder investigations, and these cases take a long time to work,” he said. “(Major cases) often take up to a year to complete, since most of our DNA evidence is processed out of state. And while we are working the case, additional leads or witnesses can come up throughout the investigative process.”

While new leads and witnesses adding to the the case are good things, they also contribute to delays in charging a suspect. So when we see the Five-0 team wrap up a case in days, rather than months, it’s all part of the television magic.

Yes, they have cases that carry across more than one episode, but those storylines — like Wo Fat, the Hesse Brothers, the death of Jack McGarrett, or even the Yakuza — are tied more to character arcs within the team, rather than a single episode procedural.

When I asked what the most difficult part about being a detective was, he was very honest.

“The hardest part of the job is the long hours,” he said. “It varies based on our caseload and/or the severity of the crimes, but it still takes away time from the family. You have to have a very understanding spouse with this career.”

We saw the effect of long hours on Danny’s marriage to Rachel, and we know he dwells on time when it comes to Gracie — not having enough, always having to cut his time short with her because of a case, and of course, the times her life has been in danger because of his job.

We’ve seen the horrifying effect the Delano brothers had on Chin and Kono when they tried to kill Kono and succeeded in killing Malia, as well as locking up Chin in Halawa Correctional Facility.

Even Steve is not immune to the “time toll” on relationships, as he is always promising Catherine a romantic dinner, or to spend an evening together. While he has succeeded a few times, he seems to get cut off just as his date is about to begin.

I think the last time they had any meaningful time together was when they went to North Korea. How romantic.

Yet, Det. RF0 said there is an upside to his job, and it’s not about awards or recognition. It’s mainly about justice.

“The most rewarding part about this job is obtaining justice for the victims,” he said. “In order to do that, you have to have compassion. If someone doesn’t, then this is not the job for them.

“I think the largest misconception about police officers is that we are all mean and abuse our power, which is not true. This profession has evolved over the years to (become) a very specialized job, which requires integrity, professionalism, compassion and teamwork.”

Integrity, professionalism, compassion and teamwork. Does that describe the Five-0 team? I would think so, even though sometimes they have to use their power in order to get things done, and perhaps that stretches the idea of integrity. Danny and Steve have used a little too much force to get a suspect to tell them something, which can be chalked up to being part of a television show.

Even with them stretching the boundaries of integrity, however, we know force was used to save someone innocent or find out information that would clear the case. I think most fans understand the difference between abuse of power on television and reality, right?

What I appreciated most while speaking with Det. RF0 was how he spoke about his fellow officers.

“Our police ʻohana is a very eclectic mix of people of all types of nationalities and origins,” he said. “It is very similar to the military, as we are a paramilitary organization.

“I’ve have many lifelong friends who work with me, but I think it’s important to have a balance of friends who are not in law enforcement as well. It keeps you grounded in the real world.”

So when our Five-0 team wraps up the day with shrimp plates and Kona Brewing Co. beers at Kamekona’s, or when they help Kawika and the Kapu rebuild their homes, or take Gracie and her Aloha Girl’s Troupe camping, they are trying to stay grounded in the real world as well as staying tight with their ‘ohana.

It’s nice to know our fictional detectives are pretty similar to those on the job in real life. And while we don’t get to see the real ones at work every week, we’ll keep watching our Five-0 team work to get the bad guys, while thanking the real officers who put their lives on the line every day.

Redux Side Note:

With “Hawaii Five-0” on television three times a week, fans are in virtual heaven. Folks can tune into TNT on Thursdays, when the cable network shows two episodes from season one, and CBS on Fridays where “Five-0” is trying to settle into their new niche before the start of season four.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, TNT returns with with “Po’ipū” (“The Siege”) and “Heihei” (“The Race”).

Unfortunately, CBS will not air “Hawaii Five-0” on Friday, Sept. 6. The show returns on Sept. 13 with “He welo ‘oihana” (“Family Business”).
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

14 responses to “Watching the detectives”

  1. LindaStein says:

    Great article Wendie! It’s always interesting to see how closely fiction mirrors reality with it comes to TV shows. Whether it be a medical drama, a police procedural or any other close to real life scenarios there will always be folks who watch the show, shake their heads and bemoan….”that would never happen” in real life.

    No show can ever get everything right and there is a certain amount of creative/literary license involved to make a show more enjoyable but I know shows always employ experts to try to get it as close to accurate as possible.

    As much as we adore the characters, the drama of their lives and the interaction between them all, we have to remember that first and foremost Five-0 is a police procedural. Great to see how real life HPD mirrors Five-0 and how it doesn’t. It’s great that Det. RFO took the time to enlighten us all on how it’s really done!

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Hi Linda;) Thanks as always for your insightful comment. I love the creative license Hawaii Five-0 takes, and even HPD officers know that TV can’t wait like they do for a conclusion to cases. But I do love how they get the brotherhood feeling right:) Thanks for reading and supporting Linda! Aloha, Wendie

  2. AmyN says:

    Love the insight Wendie! I’ve always been curious to know what real-world police officers think of how H50 mirrors what actually happens. And I don’t think we ever have enough respect and compassion for the long and difficult hours our police, military, etc give to ensure that our world is a safe place.

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Hi Amy- Thank you for saying that- I agree with you- there is never enough words or time to tell our police officers, firefighters, and military thank you for their service. It’s nice though, that Hawaii Five-0 seems to go out of their way to try and get it right and honor them all in a respectful manner. Love that about the show. Thanks for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  3. edmattes763 says:

    Its interesting that you said DNA is usually processed on the mainland. Charlie Fong processed DNA for Kono almost instantaneously in the finale. (Let’s hope he didn’t pay with his life.)

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Hi Ed- that was interesting- but not surprising. I guess HPD could really use Charlie Fong and his lab! 🙂 It would be nice that actual police officers could have the same wonderful and effective equipment that H50 has to help them protect and serve the public. I’m sure they would like it as well.

      But as for the season closer- I’m with you- I want Fonger to come back!
      Thanks for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  4. Angela Gerstner says:

    Thanks to the HPD detective who shared his views with you and allowed you to draw comparisons between real-life police work and the way the H50 team operates on the show. While there are differences, of course, since a TV show will always have a bit more action and violence and some fictitious stuff in it, for the sake of exciting entertainment, it seems that the H50 team also has a lot in common with the real police force.
    Actually, one of the cast members (I’m not sure if it was Alex or Daniel) once mentionned that quite a few of the cops on the show are played by actual members of the Honolulu Police Department in their time off work. I think this shows that H50 is portraying the work of the actual police force quite well and, at least, not in a negative way, because otherwise those real cops wouldn’t support the show by taking on roles as part-time actors or extras. I’ve always liked the fact that the show seems to cooperate very well with the real HPD and especially the military. It’s a true benefit for both sides, in my opinion.
    Anyway, I very much like your blog and the insight you’ve given us!

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Hi Angela- yes, you are right- many real HPD officers work on the show, and they do use actual military personnel for military scenes. I know they have a former HPD officer who works on the show and helps with police and I would imagine it probably helps with acting and directing- a director probably doesn’t have to worry about telling an extra how to act or look like a police officer, soldier, or sailor:) The #HPD technical advisor is Mike Cho. H50 AD Lon Takiguchi posted this pic on twitter of Mike Cho and Dennis Chun, Sgt. Duke. I think he does a great job honoring his brothers in blue. Thanks for reading, commenting, and for all your support of the Five-0 Redux, Angie! Aloha, Wendie

  5. alavenia says:

    Very interesting article Wendie, love the insight in the real police work, thank you!!!

  6. Luna McAwesomesauce says:

    What an excellent article!! I loved the insights! Thanks for your hard work to bring us this information!

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Thank you Luna:) I was lucky that Det. RF0 was willing to answer my questions:) I’m very grateful for his candor. Mahalo for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  7. Dina says:

    Really nice piece…. from a “detective family” it really hits home XOXO

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Thanks Dina:) Glad you liked it. I’m sure you can relate and appreciate what Det. RF0 goes through:) Mahalo for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

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