Almost forty years ago, a seventeen-year-old kid in Columbus, Ohio decided that the best way he could advance his economic interest was to rob a filling station at gunpoint. Unfortunately for him, the Columbus Police Department arrived before he could leave the premises. Even more unfortunately, he pointed his gun at one of the officers. That officer fired once, striking the would-be robber in the head, killing him instantly.
Years later, I got to know that police officer, Ron Larimer, pretty well. I used to date his sister. I ultimately concluded that, I would have loved to have had Ron as a brother-in-law, just so long as I didn’t have to marry his sister to do it. He once told me about that shooting incident and that, for months afterward, he had nightmares.
After I broke up with Ron’s sister, I didn’t have occasion to talk with him for over twenty years. One day, I was doing a bit of research about a question of Columbus police procedure, and I called Ron for the answer. He had long since retired, and we had a good time catching up. When I mentioned that he had told me about his months of nightmares after that shooting, he was quiet for a few seconds, and then slowly said, “I had nightmares for *years* afterwards.”
That is, perhaps, the most insidious aspect of violence on television. I recently read that, in real life, *half* of all police officers involved in fatal shootings, leave the profession within a year. In TV shootings, no one is ever traumatized for more than a few seconds, or until the next commercial break.