“Cops,” a police procedural reality television show, has resumed production after the 32-year-old series was canceled over the summer in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death and subsequent calls for police reform in the United States.
Police officers are often shown in a positive light in “Cops,” positioned to be the heroes of the show that help keep people safe and take criminals off the streets. They present their actions and authority as just and morally sound. But as with everything in reality television, the truth is far from what we see on the screen.
In fact, reporting from the Los Angeles Times shows that these police officers were often set up to look better than they actually were. The show displays unethical or just downright wrong policing as good policing, from using excessive force to detain a suspect to forcing arrestees to sign release forms while intoxicated.
Police officers using excessive force is, unfortunately, nothing new for the United States. The only difference between “Cops” and the videos of police officers beating, shooting or killing unarmed Black people is that there is no producer to remove the footage that would show these officers in a negative light like there is on “Cops.”
Policing in the United States isn’t easy, but we rely on these men and women to keep us safe and help us protect our community. But too often, we see videos of people getting mistreated and killed by law enforcement.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Atatiana Jefferson, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown. All had their lives cut short by law enforcement officers.
The actions of the officers who killed these people may very well be the same ones we don’t see when an episode of “Cops” is being filmed. We don’t know if a suspect is being put in an illegal chokehold, like the one that killed Garner. There is no transparency and no accountability. We only see what the producers of the show want us to see.
“Cops” gives the officers on the program free license to dole out their brand of justice without any fear of negative repercussions if they go too far. They don’t have to worry about the public seeing them unjustly beat a suspect or talk down to a minority, because they know it will never make it to air.
It is this level of immunity (qualified or otherwise) that has allowed law enforcement officers to abuse their position of power in this nation. And instead of holding them accountable, we reward them with a medium to cast themselves as heroes. This is why the production of “Cops” resuming represents a dangerous reality in our culture.
The issue isn’t about anti-police; it’s about better policing. But with the resumption of “Cops,” it shows that these cries of better policing may have fallen on deaf ears again. This is a show that glorifies their actions when this should be a time for us to look at the deeds of police officers under a powerful microscope.
Acting as a form of propaganda for police, this show is incapable of giving people a transparent view of police work. The clips of the life being stolen from Floyd or Garner tell us all we need to know about certain police officers in this country, but mostly about the mistreatment of people of color in the United States by law enforcement.
The revived “Cops” is now being produced by Langley Productions, and new episodes are being filmed in Spokane County, Washington, according to Vulture. The resurrected show — or rather more appropriately labeled, the selectively edited footage — will not air in the United States, and there is no timetable on when the episodes will premiere.
Gino Gutierrez is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GGutierrez_48