By PoliceOne Staff
What do Ponch, Ray Stantz and The Incredible Hulk all have in common? They were played by cops. Throughout law enforcement history, celebrities have donned the badge and uniform either before their big break or well after. While most cops can probably guess a few names on this list, some may genuinely surprise you. From talk show hosts to rock stars, here are 10 celebrities who have a background in law enforcement.
1. Erik Estrada
Erik Estrada played a California Highway Patrol officer in his career-defining role on “CHiPs,” so it’s only fitting he got around to becoming the real thing. Although he didn’t join CHP, he did become a reserve officer with the St. Anthony Police Department in St. Anthony, Idaho, in 2016. Estrada’s duties focus on protecting kids from online predators – an extension of his work with the Safe Surfin’ Foundation. Estrada reportedly grew up wanting to become a cop, but pursued acting instead. And this isn’t the first police agency he’s become a part of – he was also sworn-in as a deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Virginia, in 2009, and as a reserve officer in Muncie, Indiana, in 2008.
OK fnf’s I’m now a police officer with the ST ANTHONY POLICE DEPT. pic.twitter.com/aAvG4l7SSf
— ERIK ESTRADA (@ErikEstrada) July 2, 2016 2. Shaquille O’Neal
The 7-foot-1-inch sports legend has much more than four NBA championships to be proud of. In addition to being a vocal supporter of LE, Shaq is also a deputy marshal in Lafayette, Louisiana, a sheriff’s deputy in Clayton County, Georgia, and a reserve officer in California, Florida and Arizona.
“He loves the police. He loves to support the police,” Clerk of Court Louis Perret told the Daily Advertiser during a swearing-in ceremony in Lafayette.
O’Neal comes from a family of law enforcers and has been interested in law enforcement since he was a teen. His next step? A run for sheriff.
3. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll loved law enforcement, and was made an honorary cop in Denver and Memphis. He had a particularly strong relationship with the Denver PD, which began after the department provided security for one of his shows in 1970. He showered officers with gifts and even donated the money to pay for a department gymnasium. Presley was known to wear his police uniform in public to avoid being recognized.
1976, Elvis Presley was made captain in the Memphis Police Reserve. pic.twitter.com/TnXlgfj9Xm
— Legacy Recordings (@SonyLegacyRecs) February 11, 2014 4. Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd isn’t just a Blues Brother and Ghostbuster – he’s also spent nearly two decades as a reserve officer, first in Louisiana and then in Mississippi. He helps agencies in need of supplies through the Blue Line Foundation and makes donations out of his own pocket. Aykroyd has frequently championed law enforcement in what he recognizes as a difficult time for the profession, and has used his celebrity to try to get police agencies the gear and support they need.
5. Lou Ferrigno
Lou Ferrigno fought bad guys for years on TV as “The Incredible Hulk,” then decided to help cops chase down the real bad guys. The famed actor and body builder is the son of a police lieutenant, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he serves as a reserve deputy in California and Texas.
“People assume it’s just an honorary thing,” Ferrigno told KSBY of his time going through the LA County police academy. “It isn’t, because I’m certified and I have police powers, which I’m very proud of. So, I went through all the driving, the shooting, the studying, and it changed my life and I’m very happy to be a real-life hero, protecting life and property.”
I love Texas. Very proud to be sworn in today as well as have the opportunity to meet all of these great officers and children. This was painted by Irving PD Officer who works as school Resource Officer pic.twitter.com/jMHGIV3kx9
— Lou Ferrigno (@LouFerrigno) March 15, 2018 6. David Zayas
Before he hit the streets of “Gotham,” led the El Norte prison gang in “Oz,” and worked the homicide unit in “Dexter,” David Zayas was an NYPD cop for 15 years.
“I went to an acting school while I was a cop,” Zayas told NPR. “The moment I was involved in that world, it electrified me and I realized that it was something that I wanted to do.”
He reportedly ran lines with his partner during the midnight shift before auditions. One of his first roles was, fittingly, a cop in the short-lived TV series “The Beat.”
7. Dennis Farina
Character actor Dennis Farina was still working as a Chicago cop when he took on his first roles in the iconic Michael Mann TV show “Miami Vice” and the films “Thief” and “Manhunter.” He would be later known for his work as homicide detective Joe Fontana on “Law & Order.” He served on the force for nearly 20 years, and blames Mann for his unexpected career pivot. The actor, who passed away in 2013, had little formal training as an actor and originally did it for extra money. Known for his tough guy roles, “Get Shorty” director Barry Sonnenfeld called Farina the master of the F-word.
TBT – CPD 1970’s – 020 Tact Unit. Featured in this photo is Former CPD Detective turned actor Dennis Farina pic.twitter.com/JvKjmLRZFu
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) March 31, 2016 8. Eddie Money
Rock icon Eddie Money reached superstardom during his epic run on the charts in the ’70s and ’80s. But before the “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets To Paradise” singer left New York City for California to try to make it as a musician, he worked NYC’s streets as a cop.
“My father was very pissed off at me because I quit the police force, and moved out to California,” Money told the Broward Palm Beach New Times.
1978 – Former police officer Eddie Mahoney changes his name to Eddie Money, then purchases Two Tickets To Paradise. pic.twitter.com/OUXohoyY9A
— Legacy Recordings (@SonyLegacyRecs) July 7, 2014 9. Steve Wilkos
Steve Wilkos transformed a gig as security for “The Jerry Springer Show” into his own successful daytime talk show, but he may have never gotten his big break if it wasn’t for his previous job as a police officer in Chicago. One of Wilkos’ colleagues offered him off-duty work as security for Springer. He accepted, and the rest is history.
The talk show host credits his time as a cop and Marine for giving him the skills and discipline he needed to succeed.
“It’s funny. When I was a kid, I always thought that I didn’t want to be anything like my father because I was scared of my father. He was a very strict disciplinarian. He was a paratrooper in the Korean War and he was a Chicago cop. And I ended up being just like my dad. I ended up joining the Marines right after high school and then became a Chicago cop, just like him,” Wilkos told Military.com.
10. Ted Nugent
Motor City Madman Ted Nugent has been a law enforcement ally for years, and became a reserve officer for Lake County, Michigan in the early ’80s. Here’s a video of him speaking about his history with the agency and his thoughts on the difficulty law officers face today:
Are there any celebrities we missed? Add them in the comments section.