Houlton native making name for himself as consultant for ‘S.W.A.T.’ TV show
SAN DIEGO, California — Like many youths who grew up in Houlton in the 1970s and 1980s, Otis “Odie” Gallop used his imagination to entertain himself.
But never in his wildest dreams did he ever picture himself in Hollywood on the set of a television program. And yet, that is precisely where Gallop finds himself these days, as a technical advisor for a national TV show.
Gallop, who has resided in the San Diego area since 1987, served as a technical advisor on the CBS television show “S.W.A.T.” for the first season, and just began working on the second season of the police drama. The second season premieres Thursday, Sept. 27.
The show stars Shemar Moore, as a “locally born and bred S.W.A.T. lieutenant who is torn between loyalty to the streets and duty to his fellow officers when he’s tasked to run a highly-trained unit that’s the last stop for solving crimes in Los Angeles,” according to the show’s IMDB webpage.
As a technical adviser, Gallop is tasked with making sure the actors look the part of real S.W.A.T. officers, including how they walk, talk, and hold weapons, as well as how they enter a building or take down a bad guy in active shooter scenarios.
He also gets to review the scripts beforehand and can offer input on whether something is technically correct.
“I am able to give them some ideas for stories and make sure the premise is tactically sound from a law enforcement basis,” Gallop added. “It is a television show, so we do have to massage some things, but we try to make it look as tactically sound as possible.”
For example, he said a S.W.A.T. team would never conduct an investigation as they are a response unit. When not responding to incidents, they can often be found at the gun range or doing other training exercises.
Gallop said he landed the job through a friend, a retired Navy Seal who had contacts in Hollywood who were looking for an advisor who served on a S.W.A.T. unit.
“I went up to L.A., interviewed with Justin Lin (director of such films as the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise) and they called me up a few days later to ask me to be part of the team,” he said.
In fact, the director was so impressed with Gallop that he worked him into two episodes last season as the character Sgt. (Sarge) Stevens.
“I was in the background of quite a few episodes, but then one of the writers asked me if I wanted to deliver a line,” Gallop said with a chuckle. “That progressed into more lines and I am now a recurring character.”
Being on the set with actors he has watched on other shows has been somewhat of a surreal experience, he said.
“You have to wrap your mind around the fact that here I am, a guy from a small town in Aroostook County, working on a television set for a major television network,” Gallop said. “It’s weird. I watched this show (in 1975) and saw the movie that came out (in 2003) and here I am. But the crew and cast have been just awesome.”
Gallop would have been a member of the Class of 1982 from Houlton High School, but his family moved to Florida during his senior year. “I still feel like I am an honorary part of the (Houlton) Class of 1982, he said.
He joined the military out of high school, and served in the Navy for four years. During that time he was based out of San Diego and fell in love with the area. He married a California girl, Melissa, and the couple now have two adult children, Saige and Sien.
As a member of the San Diego Police Department for 28 years, Gallop currently works on the mayor’s executive security detail for the city. He will be retiring from active police duty in Oct. 1. He served on the S.W.A.T. unit for the San Diego Police Department for eight years.
Gallop was a member of the tactical group during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and recalls his unit being placed on standby, should they be needed. His unit, however, was not activated for any details connected to the terrorist attacks.
In 1997, his unit was on a protective detail for a Mexican newspaper owner named Jose Blancornelas. “He was very vocal about the Arellano Drug Cartel,” Gallop recalled. “While in Tijuana, Blancornelas was driving to work with his bodyguard when there was an attempted assassination on his life. His bodyguard/driver was killed and he was seriously wounded being shot numerous times. He then was protected by a detail of Mexican soldiers while in Tijuana.”
Gallop said Blancornelas later was invited to visit the University of California San Diego to speak at a conference.
“Due to the high threat level of another assassination attempt (because San Diego Street Gangs are involved with cartels), they requested a SWAT Protection Detail,” he said. “We followed his vehicle from the border and were with him all day as he spoke at the conference and also wanted to go to dinner and shop since he had not left his compound in Mexico due to the threats.”
Gallop also was involved in several Counter Assault Team (CAT) assignments whenever the president of the United States came to the area. He said those details involved sitting in a van as part of the presidential motorcade, ready to respond to any would-be attackers.
As fate would have it, Gallop’s most life-threatening experience happened when he was no longer on the S.W.A.T unit. In November 2016, Gallop and fellow Detective Ross Weaver were in the spotlight for their efforts to subdue a suicidal woman armed with a handgun at a busy shopping mall in San Diego. Gallop and Ross chased the woman through the mall and at various times stared down the barrel of her handgun. Neither officer fired their guns and the woman eventually took her own life. The two received Medals of Valor for their efforts.
Many of Gallop’s relatives remain in Houlton. He returned to Maine earlier this summer when his mother, Charlene, died at the age of 75 at a health care facility in Bangor.
“I’m the black sheep that left (Maine),” Gallop said jokingly. “Growing up, people often can’t wait to get out of a small town, but then when you get older, you really appreciate the fact that you grew up in a small town. I am glad to say I grew up in Houlton.”