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Shop, Drop and Roll: A Real Mall Cop Takes on ‘Paul Blart’

How accurate are these Kevin James comedies? A former security officer weighs in

Kevin James

Kevin James in 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.'

Matt Kennedy/©Sony Pictures/Everett

In the pantheon of formidable law-enforcement figures who’ve been immortalized on film, Paul Blart may never measure up to the likes of Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness, Frank Serpico, or Donnie Brasco. But given that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which continues the fictional saga of the beleaguered West Orange, New Jersey security officer, shoplifted a grand total of $23 million during its opening weekend, it’s safe to think that this sequel may soon beget future Blart-istic endeavors. (Particularly when you consider that its 2009 predecessor earned just shy of $186 million worldwide.)

While the big-picture plotlines of both films are hardly realistic — the original concerned the bumbling-but-dedicated Blart (Kevin James) foil a Black Friday caper while its Part Two has our hero traveling to Las Vegas for a security officers conference, only to inadvertently stumble upon a major art heist — the finer details, according to recovering “mall cop” Bob Bailey, are occasionally (and surprisingly) accurate.

So we invited Bailey, who spent six years patrolling the cobblestone grounds of Boston’s Faneuil Hall, to give us the lowdown on how realistically the films reflect the true shopping-center security experience. “The first movie was way more accurate,” he says. “The second movie just jumped the shark.'” Entertainment value aside, here are 12 ways that both of these Kevin James comedies score (and miss the mark) in terms of mall-cop accuracy.

1. Mall cops are indeed trained in the use of non-lethal force.
After taking out a gang of bad guys with an array of impromptu weaponry, including a handy taser and electric fork, Blart is surprised to see they all survived his attacks… until he remembers that has only been trained to serve up justice using non-lethal force. While the early days of security training are more about shadowing fellow officers in order to learn the ropes,  you may eventually find yourself training in the fine art of NLF. “When you’ve been there for a while — and if you wanted to carry [a weapon] — you’d go with a PR-24,” Bailey explains. “It’s a billy club with a little three-inch handle so that you could hold onto it. It was used more for protection than beating people…but there were incidents. The highlight of our careers was watching the new guys who wanted to carry pepper spray getting sprayed. Because some of them just wept like babies.”

2. Some mall cops can (and do) carry guns.
Though Blart and his teenage daughter have been threatened at gunpoint in both films, he doesn’t have the authority to match such heavy artillery. Which is not the case for every security officer: Regulations vary between place of employment and geographic location, but according to Bailey, security officers who opt for special training were allowed to carry a .38 in Boston. “We didn’t carry guns, but that was more of a company policy,” he says. “By law we could have.”

3. Mall cops have full arrest powers.
Blart’s series of arrests at the conclusion of the first movie really aren’t a ridiculous concept. The next time you think about throwing out a “rent-a-cop” insult at a security officer, consider this: they can — and will — take you in. “We had full arrest powers on our property,” Bailey says. “There were guys who would rack up them up all over the place, usually for public urination after the bars would close. I think the loose criteria was once you were there a year, you could two-week, state-run class and train to have the ability to arrest someone.” No word on whether that resulted in mass tussling in lingerie stores, however.

4. Most mall cops don’t make a habit of being referred to by the title “officer.”
Blart makes sure that he’s always addressed as “Officer Blart.” For Bailey and his colleagues, that distinction was really “part of the shtick that we used to inform people that, “Well actually, I’m an SPO, or special police officer. We do have arrest powers on our property.’ You would tell people that not to earn their respect, but just to deescalate the situation. So it was more of a self-preservation thing than an ego thing, but that also played into it. If you’re an upstanding individual and you planning on having a) a little bit of pride and b) a career after security, yeah, you want to legitimize what you do. But mostly it was just to get the situation over with as quickly as possible.”

5. Yes, “mall cop” is an insult.
Sure, it makes for a catchy title. But you’d be hard-pressed to find as serious-minded a mall cop as Blart referring to himself by that job title. More often, it’s a burn. “I think ‘mall cop’ is insulting to anyone,” laughs Bailey. “I would just laugh. When people called you a ‘rent-a-cop,’ I mean, what can you say? “You got me!’ Rent-a-cop was usually my insult of choice.”

6. The divide between the slacker officers and the gung-ho ones is real.
To call Blart a dedicated officer of the mall is hardly an understatement, and Bailey has met plenty of Blart-like officers in his time. He’s also met the exact opposite. “You have your guys that want to be cops — and then you have your slackers who don’t give a shit about anything,” Bailey admits. “They get that part right. Both ends of that spectrum are kind of brutal.”

7. Yes, there are definitely veteran mall cops.
Blart is proud of his 16-year mall cop tenure, which Bailey says is really not out of the ordinary. Though he’s been off the security beat for several years, he says that, “There are some guys that I worked with that are still there. I can’t believe it, but 20 years later they’re still there.” You still have four years to go beat that record, Blart.

8. A Segway would be a great way to pass the time.
Blart’s preferred method of life-saving transport is one of those two-wheeled monstrosities, and while such a vehicle wouldn’t have benefited Bailey in his beat —”it would be impractical at Faneuil Hall because of all the cobblestone” — he thinks that it could have provided some much-needed entertainment. “For the guys who don’t care about making their presence as an officer known, it’s kind of like in the movie; they’re talking to chicks or to the guy at the cookie stand who gives them free cookies. Some guys would be trying to find a place to sleep. So the Segway would have been great. Who wouldn’t want to ride around on that thing, especially when the mall was closed?!”

9. There can be competition between security officers.
Paul Blart 2 sees the titular mall cop headed to a security officers convention at the Wynn Las Vegas. Though the hotel employs its own team of highly trained professionals, that doesn’t stop Blart from offering himself up if they’re in need of an extra set of eyes. It does not go over well — and according to Bailey, is spot-on. Where his perimeter ended, another security team’s began, and “there was a little competition there. They didn’t have arrest powers or anything like that, so they’d make fun of us. You’ve got so little to grasp when you can save a little bit of face you do.”

10. It really is a dangerous job.
Unlike Blart, Bailey never found himself embroiled in a major bank or art heist. But the job was not without its dangers. “I had to get tested for TB because we arrested a guy with tuberculosis and he spit on me,” he recalls. “We arrested a guy on PCP once; I’m 6’2″ and was probably 200 pounds at that time and this guy towered over me. It took six of us to get him down and arrest him.”

11. It’s also often a thankless job.
No matter how many lost kids Blart has helped to find or disturbances he has broken up, he never seems to get the sort of respect he’s hoping for. Which sounds about right to Bailey. “We arrested a guy who was beating his girlfriend and had to go to court,” Bailey recalls. “She was very thankful and then we got to court — and she threw us under the bus.”

12. Women like a man in uniform.
In the original movie, Blart falls in love — and eventually marries — a beautiful young kiosk worker named Amy (Glee’s Jayma Mays). Though the sequel reveals that she left him after just six days of wedded unbliss, Blart’s sex appeal attracts a mounted cop on a horse and a gorgeous hotel manager who finds herself inexplicably drawn to him. When asked whether there’s any truth to the old adage that women like a man in uniform, Bailey confesses that, “I did very well there. I was younger and skinnier back then. Back then, I was tall, dark, and handsome,” he laughs. Bottom line: “Yeah, chicks dig mall cops.”

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