Washington state

Portland officer gets city's OK to be funny

PORTLAND - Mayor Tom Potter says a police detective who moonlights as a standup comedian can star in a reality television show.

Potter initially rejected the idea of having Detective Willie Halliburton appear as "Willie, the Comedy Cop." But Potter had a change of heart after hearing Halliburton speak at a retirement party for Lt. Harry Jackson.

Halliburton told the crowd that he wanted to become a Portland police officer after watching Jackson on a 1989 episode of "COPS." Halliburton said he saw in Jackson an African-American officer who embodied the kind of community-based policing he wanted to do, but couldn't at his police job in Kansas.

Halliburton resigned from that job and relocated to Portland. The Portland Police Bureau hired him in December 1990.

The mayor said Halliburton's remarks made him realize how Jackson's appearance on "COPS" positively influenced how minorities viewed police officers.

"After that, I decided anything we could do to get more minorities on the department we should," Potter said, "including letting Willie do his thing."

Just months earlier, Potter had rejected the proposal without even viewing the promotional video a Los Angeles producer had made. At the time, Potter said such shows don't "enhance the professionalism of policing in America."

The promotional video shows the detective on his job and showcases his family life. Halliburton played it recently before a group of students and teachers celebrating Black History Month at Portland State University.

Halliburton told the audience he expects to start filming a pilot TV show for a cable network this summer and hopes it will be ready to air this fall.

"I'm excited, but yet I'm cautious," Halliburton said. "This is really big, but I've got to make sure things go smoothly, especially since I'll be representing the city of Portland."

His executive producer, Andy Scheer of Los Angeles, is negotiating with a cable network. Scheer said the network is considering shooting a half-hour pilot show that could become a series.

"I was extremely thrilled and pleasantly surprised," Scheer said of the mayor's reversal.