About Jack Webb

Jack Webb and the Jack Webb Awards

No four notes in music are more iconic than the “Dum-de-dum-dum” from Dragnet’s theme song. And no phrase could beat that of Jack Webb’s staccato voice portraying Sergeant Joe Friday: “My name is Friday — I’m a cop.”

Dragnet ran from 1952–1959 and again from 1960–1970. Over the years, Jack Webb strove for total accuracy, both in his portrayal of a police officer and in the stories he produced. Over the years, LAPD spokesperson Dan Cooke tried to interest Jack in doing a show in the Internal Affairs Division. Jack would have nothing to do with it, saying, “There’s enough bulls*** on the air today and I don’t want to get into that.” Eventually, he was convinced to do one, and, along with numerous other shows he produced, it was used as training material for Detective School classes at the Police Academy.

LAPD received many inquiries over the years from other law enforcement agencies about the relationship it enjoyed with Jack. They even timed their roll calls so they could watch Dragnet and gain some knowledge of LAPD procedures. The impact on law enforcement was tremendous, not to mention the many young people who joined the Department after having been influenced by the show.

Jack created Adam-12 in 1969, another TV show about two radio car officers. Stories from both Dragnet and Adam-12 came from within the divisions from uniformed officers, Department sets and a voice from a radio telephone operator. (A woman from Valley Division was selected by Webb, from four others who had been recommended by their supervisors.) Deputy Chief Bob Rock had made the comment, “How in the world is Jack going to sustain a show about two radio car officers? It gets dull after a while.” Years later, Dan Cooke reminded Rock of what he had said. Rock responded, “Who would have thought it possible?”

Adam-12 had a tremendously beneficial effect, not only on the LAPD but on police agencies nationally, by humanizing the radio car officers and presenting their story in a factual and dramatic way. Deputy Chief Fisk wrote Jack a letter stating, “In these critical times, it is important for all of us to put even greater effort in our attempt to gain the confidence of the minority races and citizens in general and to restore their respect for law enforcement. We work very hard in attempting to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and fear held by certain segments of our society. Your show performs a magnificent public service in this regard and greatly enhances our image.”

Jack did the same for paramedics across the globe as he had done for the Department. Without Emergency, who knows how long it would have taken for this country to realize the benefits of having paramedics in every city? Once the series was on the air, Jack received innumerable letters requesting information on this highly controversial program. Within just a few years, virtually no city was without paramedics.

Jack Webb died of a heart attack on December 23, 1982, at 62 years of age. The LAPD gave him a farewell worthy of an officer killed in the line of duty. Chief of Police Daryl Gates retired Joe Friday’s Sergeant Badge 714 on the day Jack died. The famous “What Is a Cop?” monologue from the February 9, 1967, episode of Dragnet was read at the ceremony. It concludes: “There are over 5,000 men in this city who know that being a policeman is an endless, thankless job that must be done. I know it, too. And I’m damn glad to be one of them.”

Dum-de-dum-dum…

The Los Angeles Police Museum is proud to present the Jack Webb Awards in his honor and to salute his memory.