From cool “Miami Vice” cops, Crockett and Tubbs, to slapstick sleuth, Frank Drebin of “The Naked Gun” series, pop culture is filled with iconic police characters. And while you may be familiar with many of the police officers on the big and small screens, you may not know that there are some well-known celebrities who have done police work in small towns and major cities across the country.
Some of these stars credit their characters with inspiring them to don the badge. Others left dangerous police work behind to pursue a career in show business. But what all of these celebrities have in common is a respect for law enforcement and a desire to help people. These celebrities have worked side by side with law enforcement to keep our streets safe from crime.
Shaquille O’Neal left the court to fight crime.
Over his 19-year career in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal was known for being a tough opponent on the basketball court. But you may not have known that the 7-foot Hall of Famer has been a police officer as well. Shaq served as a reserve police officer in Miami Beach, Golden Beach, and Doral, Florida, as well as Tempe, Arizona and Port of Los Angeles, California. During his tenure, Shaq worked primarily as a community liaison, serving as a role model for children. And the superstar isn’t going to stop there. Shaq plans to run for sheriff in 2020, as he told Atlanta’s NBC affiliate.
The Hulk lends a hand to police departments across the country.
Lou Ferrigno is best known for his role as Bruce Banner’s big, green alter ego on the television series, “The Incredible Hulk.” Although the series ended in 1982, Ferrigno hasn’t stopped taking bad guys down. Ferrigno transitioned into law enforcement, serving as reserve deputy in both San Luis Obispo and LA County’s sheriff departments. Ferrigno’s father was a lieutenant with the New York Police Department, and instilled a respect for law enforcement in his son from an early age.
But if you think Ferrigno got special treatment because of his famous role, think again. The actor and former body builder had to undergo a background check and training for first aid and firearms before earning his badge. In March of 2018, Ferrigno was sworn in as an honorary officer with the Irving, Texas police department.
Erik Estrada turned his infamous role into a real-life career.
From 1977 to 1983, actor Erik Estrada played a cool cop who patrolled the California highways by motorcycle on the drama series, “CHiPs.” Since the show ended, Estrada has been putting his skills to work as a real-life cop.
Estrada served as deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Virginia in 2009. In 2016, he was sworn in as a reserve police officer in St. Anthony, Idaho, where he focuses on protecting children from online predators.
“Law & Order” star got his start patrolling the streets of Chicago.
Actor Dennis Farina has played a police officer on television and in movies, most notably as Detective Joe Fontana on the long-running drama series, “Law & Order.” But before he played a cop on television, Farina did the job in real life. Before he got his break in Hollywood, Farina was a Chicago police officer from 1967 to 1985.
Rocker Eddie Money followed his family into police work.
Eddie Money always knew he wanted to be a musician. But before he was known for his platinum-selling hits like “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets to Paradise,” the Brooklyn-born rocker was NYPD Officer Edward Mahoney. Money comes from a long line of police officers. His grandfather, father, and one of his brothers all spent time on the police force.
Although policing is in his family, Money left the force after two years to pursue his career in music.
An Idaho police department has a superhero in its ranks.
From 1993 to 1997, actor Dean Cain played Superman on the hit series, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” But in June 2018, he traded in his cape for a police uniform. Cain was sworn into the St. Anthony, Idaho Police Department as a reserve officer. Cain joins his friend, actor Erik Estrada, on the force to work on an initiative to protect children from online predators. In his role, Cain can also patrol the streets of the community alongside a full-time officer.
Chuck Norris helped combat drug crimes in Texas.
Martial arts expert Chuck Norris is known for his tough guy roles on “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Lone Wolf McQuade.” The actor wasn’t afraid to put his skills to use in real life. Norris served as a reserve officer with the Terrell, Texas Police Department in 1997, where he worked with fellow officers to stop drug crimes in the area.
“Dexter” star took acting classes as he patrolled the streets of New York City.
David Zayas has played characters on both sides of the law. He was inmate, Enrique Morales on the HBO prison series, “Oz,” and police Sergeant Angel Batista on Showtime’s “Dexter.” But before he made his debut on screen, the Bronx native was an NYPD officer.
As he worked his beat, Zayas took acting classes in his spare time. But when the crime and violence became too much, Zayas decided to leave policing to pursue acting full time.
“Gotham” actor did double duty as a New York City transit cop.
J.W. Cortes is a great actor, but his role as Detective Carlos Alvarez on Fox’s “Gotham” wasn’t much of a stretch. The Brooklyn-born actor worked as a police officer with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority while starring on the show. Cortes is also a marine combat veteran who served in Iraq.
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