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Denzel Washington is not a policeman, but he sometimes plays one of them on television.

During his distinguished career, the grim new thriller The Little Stuff marks the 13th time that the 66-year-old Oscar nominee plays a law enforcer, most of them clean (The Bone Collector, Out of Time) but a few sometimes filthy (Training Day).

Washington plays a disgraced Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detective in The Small Stuff, who sees a shot of salvation when he feels that a serial murderer he once pursued is on another rampage of murder.

And while police in America have been under intense pressure in the midst of many high-profile officer-involved assassinations, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and calls to “defund the police,” a discourse that has expanded to television with the cancellations of shows such as Cops and Live PD, Washington makes it clear where he is on the subject.

“I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do, [people] that sacrifice their lives,” Washington tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview (watch above). “I just don’t care for people who put those kind of people down. If it weren’t for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do.”

Washington, who more than half a dozen times has also played armed soldiers or veterans (Glory, Crimson Tide, Bravery Under Fire, et al.), states that his next project will be to direct a film (Journal for Jordan, starring Michael B. Jordan) about a soldier who “makes the ultimate sacrifice.”

When preparing to play a cop-turned-district attorney in the 1991 film Ricochet, the respected actor, who has also played revolutionaries Steve Biko and Malcolm X, tracked his respect for law enforcement members back to a ride-along.

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“I went out on call with a sergeant,” he recalls. “We got a call of a man outside his house with a rifle that was distraught. We pulled up and did a U-turn past the house and came up short of the house. He told me to sit in the car, which I was gonna do. I wasn’t getting out. He got out. As he got out, another car came screaming up and two young people jumped out screaming. As it turned out, it was their grandfather. This policeman defused the entire situation by just remaining calm.

“But it showed me in an instant how they can lose their life. … He didn’t overreact. He could’ve pulled his gun out and shot the people that came up driving real fast. He could’ve shot the old man that was distraught and a bit confused, I think he was suffering a little bit from dementia. But in an instant it taught me, and I never forgot it, what our law enforcement people have to deal with moment to moment, second to second.”

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