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What Criminal Minds Gets Wrong About Lavish Police Resources

Despite their best efforts to stay grounded in reality, television series frequently require viewers to strain their ability to willingly suspend disbelief, especially when it comes to money and expenses. For ten seasons, "Friends" asked audiences to overlook the exceptionally large New York City apartments of its characters, most of whom spent more time relaxing at Central Perk than earning money at work. The same can be said for "Sex and The City" and Carrie Bradshaw, whose apartment and shoe addiction would have bankrupted most others.

Of course, sitcoms aren't the only culprits. "Criminal Minds," which often drew inspiration from real-life serial killer cases, had a tendency to embellish the true function of a profilers. While the real FBI does indeed have a Behavioral Analysis Unit, those teams spend far less time in the field than the gun-toting individuals in the long-running crime procedural. Beyond the BAU's function, the series also took great liberty with the resources such a group would have available to them.

The BAU was a high-flying team

As fans of "Criminal Minds" know, most episodes begin with a vicious crime that requires the investigative acumen of the BAU. Typically, after the opening credits roll, the BAU reviews the case's details and then goes "wheels up," flying off to the gruesome crime scene. While the availability of the team's jet is essential to the story, its existence and frequency of use diminishes the show's efforts toward reality.

While the real BAU is designed to assist local law enforcement in high profile or challenging cases, most of their work is conducted in their office, communicating with local law enforcement via phone or computer. Occasionally, the BAU will travel to a crime scene, but their role is mostly focused on investigation, not backalley foot chases and high-adrenaline shoot-outs. That reality, though, doesn't make the most compelling television. So, the creative team behind "Criminal Minds" bent the truth a bit and designed its BAU to be the primary team in most of its cases.

By bending that truth, "Criminal Minds" was forced to tweak another. In order for the show's BAU to travel around the country solving crimes, they needed a ready mode of transportation. Thus, the inclusion of their own private jet.

The BAU's jet is both unrealistic and necessary

There's no doubt that a government agency like the FBI would have access to a private jet. The issue, though, is that it appears the show's BAU has its own dedicated aircraft. Episode after episode, the jet is ready and waiting, available to the BAU whenever needed. That, of course, is inconsistent with reality. FBI agents are not jumping on private jets multiple times per week. The sheer cost of a handful of agents using a dedicated private jet, which spends more time in the air than on the ground, would be staggering and likely cause much debate when Congress reviews the FBI's budget.

By changing the role of the BAU for "Criminal Minds," the series' writers needed to include the jet. Without it, each episode of the show might have been focused solely on six people booking commercial flights, dealing with departure delays, and fighting for overhead storage space — all while a serial killer is running amok in Smalltown, USA. So, while the private jet is a noticeable fabrication, it's also one that helped keep the show interesting for 15 seasons.