COPS (TV series)

COPS (TV series)
COPS intertitle.png
COPS title screen.
Format Reality
Created by John Langley
Malcolm Barbour
Narrated by Harry Newman
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 24
No. of episodes 971 (as of September 10, 2011)
Executive producer(s) John Langley
Malcom Barbour (1989–1994)
Producer(s) Paul Stojanovich (1989–1990)
Bertram van Munster
Murray Jordan
Jimmy Langley
Morgan Langley
Running time approx. 22 min.
(excluding commercials)
Production company(s) Barbour/Langley Productions (1989–2001)
Langley Productions (2002–present)
Fox Television Stations
Original channel Fox
Picture format 480i (SDTV) (1989–2007),
720p (HDTV) (2007–present)
Audio format Mono (1989–1990)
Stereo (1991–present)
Original run March 11, 1989 – present
External links

Cops (stylized as COPS) is an American documentary/reality television series that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police activities. It is one of the longest-running television programs in the United States and in May 2011 became longest-running show on Fox with the announcement that America's Most Wanted was being canceled after 23 years.[1][2]

Created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, it premiered on March 11, 1989, and has aired 970 episodes as of June 18, 2011. It won the American Television Award in 1993 and has earned four Emmy nominations.[3] COPS began its 24th season on Saturday 10th September 2011.[4] The series is currently one of only two remaining first-run prime-time programs airing on Saturday nights on the four major U.S. broadcast television networks along with CBS's 48 Hours Mystery.

COPS is broadcast by Fox (with repeats from earlier seasons syndicated to local television stations and other cable networks, including truTV (formerly CourtTV) and G4), and follows the activities of police officers by embedding camera crews with police units. The show's formula follows the cinéma vérité convention, with no narration or scripted dialog, depending entirely on the commentary of the officers and on the actions of the people with whom they come into contact.

The show has followed officers in 140 different cities in the United States and in Hong Kong, London, and the former Soviet Union. Each episode is approximately 22 minutes in length and typically consists of three segments, with each segment being one or two self-contained police incidents.

The show is well known for its theme song, "Bad Boys", performed by reggae group Inner Circle.


History and background

COPS was created by John Langley and his producing partner Malcolm Barbour. In 1983, Langley was working on Cocaine Blues, a television series about drugs. As part of his research he went on a drug raid with drug enforcement officers and was inspired to create a show focusing on real-life law enforcement.

In the late 1980s, after producing a series of live syndicated specials called American Vice: The Doping of a Nation with Geraldo Rivera, Langley and Barbour pitched the COPS show concept to Stephen Chao, a Fox programming executive who would one day become president of the Fox Television Stations Group and later USA Network. Chao liked the concept and pitched it to Barry Diller, then CEO of the Fox Network.

A Writers Guild of America strike was occurring at the time and the network needed new material. An unscripted show that did not require writers was ideal for Fox. The first episode aired in 1989, and featured the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office.

The original concept of the show was to follow officers home and tape their home lives along with their work. After a while the idea of following officers home was deemed too artificial by Langley and was abandoned. Thereafter, the format of three self-contained segments with no narrator, no music and no scripts would become the show's formula.

The first segment is usually an action segment to hook the viewer, followed by a slower, or more "lyrical" segment, and concluding with a more "thoughtful" segment. This has been the formula and visual style of COPS as the first network reality TV series and has remained so from episode one until the present day. Other innovations for its time included Langley's insistence that as few edits as possible be used, that all cameramen throw away their tripods and shoot exclusively handheld, and that natural audio be the score of the series.



The series The X-Files realized an episode X-Cops (season 7, episode 12) where Mulder and Scully collaborate with the policemen in order to catch a mysterious, shapeshifting entity. In the tradition of the real-life COPS program, the entire episode is shot on video.

Camera crew assistance

The camera crew that follows the officers are instructed to maintain a fly on the wall position[citation needed], not interfering or making their presence known on camera unless necessary for the safety of officers and civilians on scene. There have been multiple instances where the safety of the officers has necessitated their involvement, however.

In one episode, the sound mixer for the camera crew, a former EMT, assisted a police officer in performing CPR. In another episode in season 11 that took place in 1998 in Atlanta, COPS camera operator Si Davis, who was coincidentally a Las Vegas Reserve Police Officer, had to drop the camera and assist an Atlanta police officer in wrestling a suspect into custody. The APD officer, it turned out, had been severely injured during a foot pursuit; meanwhile, sound mixer Steve Kiger, picked up the camera and continued recording the action which eventually made air. Because the camera crew was dressed in tactical gear, no one noticed that it was the camera operator in front of the camera.

In another episode a rape suspect fled and outran the cops only to have the cameraman follow him the entire time until police caught up and subdued him.

In an episode of season 14 (2001–2002) during the arrest of a man after a car chase in Hillsborough County, Florida, the sound mixer held the sister of the man away from the deputy after she tried to intervene in the arrest of her brother. Also, during the first episode of Season 22, a Las Vegas officer was scuffling with a suspect high on PCP, who eventually tackled the officer and required the camera operator and Las Vegas paramedics to wrestle the suspect off of the officer.


All episodes of COPS, with the exception of the first season, begin with the disclaimer, "COPS is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law." The first season disclaimer was slightly different by stating, "COPS is filmed on location as it happens. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

End-credits sound clip

Since season 2, COPS ends each episode with a sound clip over the closing credits, of an officer and a dispatcher conversing over the radio, "132 and Bush, I've got him at gunpoint... Okay, gunpoint, 132 and Bush, coverage code three." This is extracted from a conversation between a Portland, Oregon, police officer and the radio dispatcher during the arrest of a suspect in the 13200 block of SE Bush St 45°29′43″N 122°31′39″W / 45.49536°N 122.52743°W / 45.49536; -122.52743.[citation needed]

However, the end-credits during the first season used a different sound clip from Broward County, Florida. Along with Florida, other early episode localities include the Pacific Northwest cities of Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington.

DVDs, books, and syndication

Recently, several themed DVDs have been released, some of which include profanity and sexually explicit footage cut from the network version. They are entitled COPS: Shots Fired, COPS: Bad Girls and COPS: Caught in the Act. A COPS: 20th Season Anniversary two disc DVD was released in the US and Canada on February 19, 2008,[5] In 1993, COPS went into syndication on cable and over-the-air channels. As of 2008, it currently appears on cable on truTV and G4.

On May 29, 2007, COPS 2.0 premiered on G4, featuring repeats of episodes with trivia, expert commentary, live web-enabled chat, and facts about the law enforcement officers featured in each program.[6]

In 1999, COPS associate producer and sound mixer Hank Barr published The Jump-Out Boys, a book giving a behind the scenes look at the production and taping of COPS.

COPS has produced over 948 episodes, well above the 100 episodes typically required for broadcast syndication. COPS is syndicated to more than 95% of the United States market and currently airs internationally in over 120 countries.

COPS is broadcast in the UK on FX and CBS Reality. In Portugal the show is aired on Fox Crime, in Australia on Network Ten and CI Network, in India on STAR World and FOX Crime, in Norway on Viasat 4, in Sweden on Viasat 6 and in Denmark on Canal9.


The show has been criticized for its predominant focus on the criminal activities among the poor. Critics of this aspect of the show say it unfairly presents the poor as responsible for most crime in society while ignoring the "white-collar crimes" that are typical of the more wealthy. Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore raises this tenet in an interview with a former associate producer of COPS, Richard Herlan, in Moore's film Bowling for Columbine.

His response to Moore was that television is primarily a visual medium, requiring regular footage on a weekly basis to sustain a show, and police officers "busting in" on an office where identity theft papers are being created or other high-level crime rings are operating does not happen very often. It is therefore not likely to be recorded and thus not shown. The low-level crime featured on the show happens every day, providing large quantities of material suitable for taping.

Chicago Police Department Deputy Director of News Affairs Patrick Camden has stated in response to requests for COPS taping that "police work is not entertainment. What they do trivializes policing. We've never seriously even considered taping."[7]

Impact of filming on trials

During the trial of Dalia Dippolito, convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, the defense attorney claimed Dippolito was tricked into signing the COPS release form.[8] Also the defense claimed the husband orchestrated the plot to get aired on COPS.[9]

See also


External links

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