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COPS is an Americanmarker documentary 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 the second longest-running show on Fox, and along with America's Most Wanted, the first of the longest unchanged nightly schedule (Fox's Saturday night) currently on American broadcast television. Created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, it premiered on Saturday March 11, 1989, and has aired 750 episodes as of March 21, 2009. It won the American Television Award in 1993, and has earned four Emmy nominations. COPS began its 22nd season on September 12, 2009.

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 Kongmarker, Londonmarker, and the former Soviet Unionmarker. 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 in which everyone seemed to enjoy South Floridamarker. 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. As fate would have it, 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 would be 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 this concept was deemed too artificial by Langley and was abandoned. Eventually, 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 two unrelated segments.

As the first network "reality" show, the visual style of COPS was not finalized until mid 1989. Director/cameramen Dale Dimmick and Bertram van Munster are credited with developing the visual shooting style of COPS. Resulting from their shared cinematic backgrounds, Van Munster and Dimmick were of the opinion that a modified cinéma vérité approach to filming would enhance the perception of reality and create a unique sense of "being there" and urgency for the viewer. This approach was initially questioned by Barbour and Langley, but soon was quickly adopted and the visual style has become the hallmark of the series and many other reality shows today.

COPS ends each episode on the credits screen, using the line, "132 and Bush, I've got him at gunpoint... Okay, gunpoint, 132 and Bush, cover's code three." This is a sound clip 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 . Along with Florida, other early episode localities include the Pacific Northwest cities of Portland and Tacoma, Washington.

In one episode, the sound mixer for the camera crew, a former EMT, assisted a police officer in performing CPR. In another episode that took place in 1998 in Atlantamarker, 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.

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."

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,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.

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

COPS in popular culture

As one of the longest running shows in the history of television, COPS has many references to it in popular culture, and is a popular subject for parody. The success, longevity, and popularity of COPS has also influenced many different television shows and documentaries on law enforcement (see List of television series influenced by COPS).


  1. The Official COPS Website
  2. Cops 20th Anniversary

External links

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