Cops on the Box

"They (the water police) say, my last week consisted of pulling a dead dog out of the harbour, you guys pulled out three murder suspects, four guns and a sub-machine gun"  Ted Roberts, Executive Producer - Water Rats

Division 4, Homicide, Matlock Police, Wildside, Water Rats, Police Rescue, Blue Murder, and the list goes on. Australian audiences have always had a fascination for the drama of police work.

Cops on the Box, an exhibition at the Justice & Police Museum focused on the portrayal of police and police work on television.

Like any good television police show, Cops on the Box, was full of drama and excitement. Visitors were taken on a trip down memory lane with footage from early favourites such as Homicide and Division 4 through to contemporary programs including Blue Heelers and Water Rats. There were costumes and scripts from Cop Shop, outfits from Homicide as well as that Australian television icon, the Logie.

The exhibition included interviews with some of the stars of our favourite police dramas including Gerard Kennedy, John Wood, Martin Sacks and Brett Partridge, directors such as Derek Cottee (The Bill) and writers who have worked on police dramas.

The exhibition considered how television dramas shape public perception of the work of police, keeping the audience ’s attention with the excitement and thrill of the raid, the shoot-out and the car chase.

But perhaps more importantly the exhibition also explored how police television dramas influence our police?

Cops featured interviews with real life police, including many who have worked as advisers on television programs. Visitors heard the comments and criticisms of the genre by water police, police rescue and the cop on the street.

Cops on the Box was a fascinating look at the myths and realities of police drama. Whether you’re a police drama junkie or interested in understanding why we are so intrigued by police dramas, this show was for you. 

3 November 2001 - 13 October 2002

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