Five-0 Redux: Watching the detectives
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
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.
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.
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.