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Interview With True Crime's Police Advisor

Activision has published an interview with True Crime's police advisor, Bill Clark, about his time as an officer and how he's helped in the development of the game. Enjoy!

Let's start by giving the readers a quick intro to who you are. Tell us a bit about your background, how long you were a cop, your specialty on the force, etc.

I was a Police Officer on the NYPD for 25 years, including 17 years in homicide and also did some undercover work. I retired as a 1st Grade Detective. One of my specialties on the force was interrogation. This is a critical aspect of police work, getting suspects to tell you the truth. I developed an expertise in this area over time and was able to become a very effective interrogator, which allowed me to extract the truth from many suspects.

I was very fortunate to have worked on a number of “headline” cases during my time on the NYPD. I participated in cases ranging from the Son of Sam to mob cases and was able to take many other violent criminals off the streets.

After retiring from the NYPD, I became the Executive Producer of a new show called NYPD Blue, where I was able to translate my experiences into creating an authentic police drama. The show turned out to be very successful, where I was nominated for 9 Emmy’s, and won 2. I was also recognized for other awards for my work on the show, including:
- 2 Peabody Award
- 2 Humanitas Awards
- A Writer’s Guild Award

What areas of policework did Activision consult you about?

Activision approached me because they were setting out to create a really deep cop game in New York City and felt I could provide insights into what it is really like to be on the front lines and do police work in the city. They felt the more they knew about the realities and details of the job, the better game experience they could make.

Specifically, they wanted to know everything - how interrogations work, how we use informants, what type of weaponry is available to officers, how we train, the ranking system, how you become a detective, how precincts work, what members of the Street Crimes Unit do, how murder investigations work, what the badge looks like, how crime tracking stats work, how officers talk, the most dangerous parts of New York, the types of crimes I encountered, some of the stranger situations I’ve encountered, the humorous stuff that happens on the job, what undercover cops wear, the dangers of undercover and more.

I also looked at the game itself for authenticity – to give them advice on how to make NYC look and feel real. I also reviewed the script to give them tips – having helped create an authentic cop drama, I was able to help them translate the realities into an entertaining game experience.

For an officer, what are the toughest areas of New York and why?

When I was on the force, Harlem, Manhattan North, and the Lower East Side were the most dangerous and toughest areas of the city. Lotta guns!

What's the craziest incident you've seen or been involved in?

Working in New York for 25 years has provided me with quite a few crazy incidents. Here are some examples:

- I once knew a guy known as Vinny Ba-Ba, a tough former mobster, one of the toughest I had ever come across. One day, I bumped into Vinny as I was responding to a noise disturbance in an apartment building. An elderly female tenant said that the tenant below her was playing music very loud at all hours of the night. I went down to check it out and found the tenant to be very uncooperative, even disrespectful. The tenant requested that we mind our own business (in so many words) and leave (in very vulgar terms). Well, out from nowhere comes this fist across my shoulder and nails this tenant, knocking him flat. Vinny felt the tenant was not getting the message and left him with a few choice words. The next day, the uncooperative tenant had moved out completely!

- The job can be very tense and as an officer you need to use your instincts and caution quite a bit. Once, I was patrolling and came across some guys in an alley who appeared to have automatic weapons. We approached them and asked them to drop their weapons but they were slow to do so. Again, we asked firmly that they drop their weapons and they finally complied. It turns out it was a water pistol factory and thye were fooling around but it could have turned out badly had we not been cautious. All kinds of things happen in NYC.

- Another story is the pursuit of the Son of Sam and how diligent police work can lead to tremendous results. We were following up on a lead about a parking ticket in the neighborhood where one of the murders had just taken place. It turns out, when calling through the switchboard, the operator knew David Berkowitz and mentioned that he had exhibited some strange behaviors. All this information and this random parking ticket lead helped to assist us in finally taking this killer off the streets.

One of the major goals in True Crime New York City is authenticity. What are the most important things you told the developers to focus on to make it as thorough a police experience as possible?

Working on an entertainment vehicle, and specifically working on a videogame where it is all action all the time, you have to find a way to make the reality of police work fun within the context of the game. For instance, in real life, an interrogation may take five to 10 hours to get a tough perp to “flip” and tell you what really happened. Obviously, that doesn’t always make a good gaming experience.

I tried to lend my expertise to describe all the major events and key interactions that take place in “real life” police work and then Activision finds a fun way to integrate this police work into the game. You’ll find interrogations, citations, arrests, use of informants, undercover work, pursuits, and more in the game. We also talked about some of the more dubious behaviors that have taken place in police work – cops going bad and taking bribes, extorting, going rotten – these types of events are also in the game.

What do you think of Marcus Reed as a police officer?

Marcus is the type of cop we all wished we could be. What I mean by that is that he has complete freedom to handle crime as he sees fit – cleaning up NYC is his only objective and he can do it any way he wants, which can be ruthlessly effective. He doesn’t need warrants to burst into buildings, search cars or people, he doesn’t have to deal with politics or property damage or paperwork.

However, giving gamers this freedom also gives them the flexibility to abuse this power – citing people for no reason, harassment, extorting. We certainly wouldn’t put up with this on the force but it has been known to happen and it’s in the game.

What do you think of the New York City re-creation?

Activision and Luxoflux did a tremendous job of recreating New York. Having spent 25 years on the force there, I know the streets and precincts inside and out. As we navigated around the city during our game viewing sessions it was exciting to see and recognize all the sites, streets, and landmarks of NYC. In fact, looking at it made me miss home!
 

9/2/2005 Aaron Thomas

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