Vargas: Few actors can claim influence Milner had on law enforcement recruitment


As many of you know by now, Martin Milner passed away this week. Like many people, I knew him best as Pete Malloy, one half of the “Adam 12” team of Reed and Malloy. His passing has brought back all sorts of memories.

As a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I grew up watching “Adam 12” with the rest of my family. We would gather in front of the old black-and-white television with the coat hanger and aluminum foil antenna. Most families only had one television back then.

We would watch enthralled as LAPD officers faced their latest round of bad guys and interesting calls.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 47 years since we first heard the police dispatcher calling out, “1 Adam 12…see the woman.” Then the sound of the police siren and the distinctive soundtrack that is instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in that era.

I’ve been reading some of the comments and postings on various websites. It’s a bit overwhelming to see the number police officers that credit “Adam 12” as being one of their primary motivators to become cops.

Even LAPD Chief Charlie Beck posted: “Adam 12 and Martin Milner embodied the spirit of LAPD to millions of viewers. His depiction of a professional and tough yet compassionate cop led to thousands of men and women applying to become LAPD officers, including me.”

Over and over again the theme is the same: “’Adam 12′ inspired me to get into police work.”

It wasn’t just at LAPD, but men and women at police departments across the country were motivated by the television show’s depiction of life on the streets to become police officers. There is no doubt it was a very effective recruitment tool.

The show existed from 1968 until 1975 and then in reruns for about another decade. It has recently resurfaced on some of the channels specializing in nostalgic television shows and is on Hulu.

But for a generation of police officers the show no longer has much relevance.

About 10 years ago, I was instructing a class at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy and made several references to Reed and Malloy as I made some point about the profession of policing. At some point in the class, one of the recruits raised his hand and asked the question, “Captain Vargas, who are Mr. Reed and Mr. Malloy?”

I responded by asking, “How many of you have ever watched ‘Dragnet?’” One young man answered, “That’s the movie with Dan Aykroyd. right?”

I definitely felt like a dinosaur at that point. How is it possible someone in police work wouldn’t know Reed and Malloy?

For those that haven’t experienced “Adam 12,” I suggest they watch the old reruns. The ideals and themes of the show are still relevant today.

I myself will lift a glass and toast Mr. Milner. The character he created in Pete Malloy was an inspiration to many cops to “protect and serve.” There are few actors who can claim as much.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at