Monday, June 8, 2015

Aquarius, Packer, and the Warren Court Revolution

NBC's new series Aquarius is a police procedural set in 1968 Los Angeles. The hero, Sam Hodiak, and his sidekick, undercover cop Brian Shafe, tackle a smorgasbord of Sixties' issues, chief among which is the disappearance of a teenage girl into Charlie Manson's nascent "family".

Given my interest in the Manson "family"--I'm working on a book about parole hearings, using their hearing transcripts as my source materials--I was very eager to watch the show, and have put up reviews of all the episodes on California Correctional Crisis (check the sidebar there for links). The bottom line is that I'm far less impressed with the fictionalization of the Manson story than I am with the policing side of the show. The latter, I think, could be a useful teaching tool for those of us teaching the Warren Court revolution.

Aquarius uses a fairly tired trope--the buddy-cop show--which is, of course, hardly a novelty. What's useful about it in this case, though, is that the show is set shortly after the advent of Miranda, leading to interesting interrogation scenes. In the scene that follows, Hodiak and Shafe embody, respectively, Packer's crime control and due process models, and could be used as illustrations of the models in class.

Hodiak and Shafe's fictional successor--Dirty Harry, policing San Francisco--is the embodiment of the post-Warren-court resentment about the advent of due process. This is his conversation with the District Attorney,  making full use of the "out on a technicality" trope:

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