Martin Milner: Law Enforcement Loses an Ambassador

Barbara A. Schwartz

(Editor’s Note: This article by Houston area police writer and advocate Barbara A. Schwartz was originally printed in the American Police Beat).

He inspired a generation of men and women to pursue a career in law enforcement. He stood as an icon representing the ideal police professional.

On Sunday, September 6th, actor Martin Milner passed away at the age of 83 following a long battle with heart issues. Milner starred as Officer Pete Malloy in what has been hailed as the best police TV show ever: Adam-12, a show about two officers working a beat in a patrol car.

Milner portrayed the seasoned cop breaking in rookie Jim Reed, played by actor Kent McCord, for seven seasons on NBC.

Prior to Adam-12, Milner starred in the television show Route 66.

Milner’s memorial services in Oceanside, California, on September 12th, included participation by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Honor Guard, the playing of taps, and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the Los Angeles Police Pipes and Drum Band.

Officers from surrounding agencies attended to honor Milner. Blue uniforms filled the church.

The honor guard presented an American flag to Milner’s wife of fifty-nine years, Judy. A veteran, Milner served in the Army for two years in the 1950s. Milner had four children-Stuart, Andrew, Molly, and Amy, who lost her battle with cancer in 2004.

Kent McCord noted that the community of police officers all over the country have reacted to Marty’s loss with an outpouring of respect and gratitude for his portrayal of Pete Malloy in a manner reserved for one of their own.

“Marty’s wife, children, and friends were all deeply moved knowing his work affected so many people who chose to pursue police work as a profession,” McCord said.

Adam-12, which aired from 1968 to 1975 and is currently available on DVD, dealt with many of the same issues facing police today.

An early episode detailed the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting and the emotional effect on the officers involved.

Episodes highlighted police and race-related issues; ambushed officers; citizens following officers with a camera to obtain footage that misrepresented an in-custody injury; the emotional toll on officers; gang warfare; antipolice sentiment; line of duty deaths; being called pigs, fuzz, and Gestapo; use of excessive force; how the job affected family members; frustrations with the criminal justice system; applying case law to police procedure; etc, not to mention the lighter, humorous moments that pepper every cop’s library of stories.

Of all police television shows ever produced, Adam-12 realistically portrayed the unique bond between police partners, the relationship that went far beyond the beat and friendship–the willingness to lay down one’s life for a partner, to know what the partner would do in any given situation, and being able to bank on that partner having your back no matter what went down.

It was a realistic on-screen portrayal that grew out of Milner and McCord’s off-screen close friendship.

Adam-12 put viewers in the patrol car experiencing what answering calls for service was like long before reality TV came into being.

The show was filmed on the streets of Los Angeles, predominantly in the North Hollywood area, and pioneered camera technology that allowed the actors to ride in a patrol car moving through actual traffic.

In a 2010 interview for American Police Beat, McCord stated that to make the show a hit “we had to capture the audience who didn’t like the police…Adam-12 allowed the public to see the police as human beings.”

Milner and McCord trained for their roles at the Los Angeles Police Academy and spent many a night riding along with LAPD cops.

During the timeframe that the show aired, departments used Adam-12 episodes in their academy curriculms as a training tool.

Milner and McCord championed the police cause and supported officers long after the show went off the air.

Over the years, both actors received citations and awards from the Los Angeles Police Department and departments around the country.

Police officers hailed Milner and McCord for their portrayal of hardworking, ethical, professional, by-the-book cops who held the job of a police officer to a high standard.

Malloy and Reed became the benchmark that police officers throughout the country strived to emulate in their own careers.

Milner’s passing, coming at a time when police officers are under attack both by words and by bullets, will forge his legacy as an ambassador who bridged the gap between the public and police.

Maybe what this nation needs to heal today’s rift between the public and police is for NBC to bring Adam-12 back to network, prime-time television.

That would allow the show to inspire a new generation to serve and protect our communities and to revitalize the public’s trust in the beat cops patrolling their streets.

The majority of officers in this country serve and protect in the spirit of Malloy and Reed.

American Police Beat, the Houston Police Officers’ Union, and the author extend their heartfelt condolences to Milner’s immediate and Adam-12 families.

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Like many Houston officers, Adam-12 inspired Barbara A. Schwartz’s interest in law enforcement. Through her writing, she has devoted her life to supporting the brave officers of law enforcement.