Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: The police liaison to Dragnet ended up taking Lieutenant Joe Friday’s badge number when he made Lieutenant.
Jack Webb’s character, Sergeant Joe Friday, is one of the most popular cops in TV history. But in fact, Friday was around even before the TV series that he starred on, Dragnet, existed.
Webb created (Webb wrote, produced AND starred on the show) the no-nonsense Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective for radio, where the radio show Dragnet ran from 1949-1956. Webb’s creation, a generally realistic look at crime-solving, was revolutionary in its approach.
A great part of the realism of the show came down to the cooperation with the LAPD, who certainly were not displeased with how impressive Webb made them look on the show.
A little more than two years into the show’s run on radio, Webb took the program to television, where it ran from 1951 to 1959.
The badge used on the show (714) was originally worn by LAPD officer Dan Cooke.
At the end of the show’s run, Friday had been promoted to Lieutenant, with a Lieutenant’s badge number 714, to boot.
Almost a decade later, Dragnet returned to television, this time in color (with Harry Morgan now as Webb’s partner)…
For this new series, Webb decided that it was more realistic for Friday to be a Sergeant, as a Lieutenant just wouldn’t be going out into the field as much as Friday did.
The show’s liaison with the LAPD for this series was Dan Cooke, who was now a Sergeant on the force. He offered the Lieutenant’s badge to Webb, who informed him of his decision. So Cooke just put the badge away.
Fast forward a number of years later, and Cooke was promoted to Lieutenant. He remembered the badge, and asked if he could use the #714 badge as his official badge, and they said yes.
So, amusingly enough, for at least a few years, there was an actual #714 badge in use at the LAPD (Chief Daryl Gates retired the number when Webb died in 1982).
The legend is…
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