‘Chicago PD’: How Does the Show Use Real Police?

by Caitlin Berard

Since 2014, the hit crime drama Chicago PD has captivated fans with fictional police officers fighting crime in the Windy City. Though the officers of Chicago PD are actors with no real experience in law enforcement, the series is incredibly believable. And there’s a reason. In addition to the talented cast and crew, the police procedural enlists the help of real-life police officers in every episode.

Long before the first episode premiered, NBC Chicago reported that the new show was looking for extras. Not just any extras, however. They specifically wanted Chicago police officers. Thankfully, the real Chicago PD responded positively to the request and many officers offered their services.

“We have a database of police officers registered in the city and their availability. It’s for background non-speaking roles, but they’re paid just like any other extra would be,” said Cassie Gorniewicz, Chicago PD casting assistant.

Knowing that police procedurals often receive backlash for their unrealistic portrayals of the police force, the creators of Chicago PD were fully dedicated to believability. “We’re looking for authenticity,” Gorniewicz explained. “To provide a good representation of what they can bring to the table. They’ll wear their actual uniforms, so that will be authentic.”

“The duties of a police officer are so specific to their lifestyle and the things they come across every day,” she added. “And it’s that kind of police training experience that we’d rather not fake.”

‘Chicago PD’ Hired a Police Consultant for the Series

For Chicago PD creators, having real-life police officers on set was just the first step toward their desired level of authenticity. To ensure that the series was an accurate representation of the Chicago police force, showrunner Rick Eid also hired a consultant. Brian Luce, a Chicago PD retiree, now acts as Chicago PD‘s consulting producer and technical advisor.

“Brian is amazing,” Eid told American Police Beat. “He’s a huge reason the show is so successful. He has three very important jobs: he helps the writers with story ideas, he helps the directors choreograph action scenes and he helps actors look, move, and talk like real cops.”

According to Rick Eid, Brian Luce is a huge help when it comes to police jargon. “The very first script I wrote, I kept referring to the ‘bad guy’ as a perp,” Eid recalled. “Brian said, ‘In Chicago, we don’t call them perps. We call them offenders’. It shows how thorough he is in reading the scripts, and how accurate we try to be with our dialogue.”

“Our goal is to show the audience what it’s really like to be police officers in Chicago (within reason, of course),” Eid explained. “To do that, we need to make the show – and the issues and dilemmas police officers face – feel authentic. The more authority our show has, the more credibility we have with our audience. At the end of the day, that’s our currency – credibility.”