Cops (TV series)

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Not to be confused with COPS (animated TV series) or Top Cops, a 1990–93 CBS reality TV series.
COPS intertitle.png
Created by John Langley
Malcolm Barbour
Narrated by Harry Newman
Theme music composer Inner Circle
Opening theme "Bad Boys"
Composer(s) Michael Lewis (pilot)
Nathan Wang (season one)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 28
No. of episodes 957[1]
Executive producer(s) John Langley
Malcolm Barbour (1989–1994)
Producer(s) Paul Stojanovich (1989–1990)
Bertram van Munster
Murray Jordan
Jimmy Langley
Morgan Langley
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Barbour/Langley Productions (1989–2001)
Fox Television Stations (1989–2013)
20th Century Fox Television (1989–2013)
Langley Productions (2002–present)
Spike Original Productions (2013–present)
Distributor 20th Television
Original network Fox (1989–2013)
Spike (2013–present)[2]
Picture format 480i (SDTV) (1989–2007),
720p (HDTV) (2007–2013),
1080i (HDTV) (2013–present)
Audio format Mono (1989–1990)
Stereo (1990–present)
Original release March 11, 1989 – present
External links

Cops (stylized as COPS) is an American documentary/reality legal series that follows police officers, constables, sheriff's deputies, federal agents and state troopers during patrols and other police activities including vice and narcotics stings. It is one of the longest-running television programs in the United States and in May 2011 became the longest-running show on Fox with the announcement that America's Most Wanted was being canceled after 23 years.[3][4] It follows the activities of police officers by assigning television camera crews to accompany them as they perform their duties. 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.

Created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, it premiered on March 11, 1989. It won the American Television Award in 1993 and has earned four Emmy nominations.[5] When it expanded to show two episodes in the 8 p.m. hour, it was called Primetime Cops in promos for several years. The series was 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).

For 25 seasons, Cops was broadcast by Fox (with repeats from earlier seasons syndicated to local television stations and other cable networks, including truTV and G4).[6] After Fox canceled the show, Spike picked it up for three more seasons, in addition to reruns of previous seasons.[2] The 28th and latest season premiered on June 20, 2015, with a 33 episode order.

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


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.[citation needed] 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.

Since season two, every episode ends with a police radio excerpt from Portland, Oregon.[7] A female officer says "132 and Bush, I've got him at gunpoint", and a female dispatcher replies, "132 and Bush. Cover's Code 3." Another woman says "Units 25, 14 can transmit on Tac 2" and the dispatcher says "Okay, we’ll still send it Code 3." Then an instrumental version of "Bad Boys" plays over the credits.[8]

Cops aired on Fox's traditional Saturday-night lineup since its debut in 1989. As of 2012, the series retained its traditional timeslot, but aired more intermittently as Fox Sports scheduled more sports programming in Saturday night primetime, with NASCAR in the late winter and spring, Major League Baseball throughout the spring and summer, college football in the fall, and various UFC events throughout the year. Cops was then scheduled on weeks without any sporting events, followed by an encore presentation of a Fox drama series.

In 2013, it was announced that Fox had canceled Cops. However, it was later announced that Spike had picked up the series for an additional three seasons. The 26th season premiered on September 14, 2013, the 27th season premiered on July 12, 2014, and the 28th and current season premiered on June 20, 2015.[9][10]

Camera crew involvement[edit]

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, otherwise necessary for the safety of officers and civilians on scene. However, there have been multiple instances where the safety of the officers has necessitated their involvement.

In one episode, the sound mixer for the camera crew, a former EMT, assisted a police officer in performing CPR.[citation needed] In another episode in season 11 that took place in 1998 in Atlanta, Georgia, 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. It turned out that the APD officer 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. Just because the camera crew was dressed in tactical gear, no one noticed that it was the camera operator who's in front of the camera.[citation needed]

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 to him and subdue him.

Also in an episode of season 14 which aired during the 2001-2002 season 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, which aired on September 12, 2009 (Season 22 premiere) 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.[citation needed] Also in an episode of season 26 which aired on February 1, 2014, during the arrest of a man in Sacramento, California for battery on his girlfriend, one of the camera crews had to pull one of the suspect's pit bulls away from one of the arresting officers. The dog was biting the officer on the leg after being commanded to do so by the suspect.[citation needed]

2014 Wendy's shooting incident[edit]

On August 26, 2014, a Cops crew was filming in Omaha, Nebraska with the Omaha Police Department, during their final week working in Omaha since arriving in June. A police officer pulled up to a Wendy's restaurant during an armed robbery and called for backup. One of the other responding officers had a Cops crew—consisting of a cameraman and audio technician—present in their cruiser. The crew began filming the altercation inside Wendy's.[11][12]

Gunfire erupted from three police firearms when the suspect pointed what was then believed to be a pistol at officers, and began making his way to exit the restaurant. The suspect's weapon was later revealed to be only an airsoft handgun, which strongly resembled a legitimate pistol, and appeared to operate in the same manner.[13] The suspect, in addition to Cops audio technician Bryce Dion, were hit by police fire, and transported to the hospital where they were both pronounced dead shortly thereafter.[14][15][16]

The 38-year-old Dion had worked on the set of Cops for seven years. Langley Productions stated that in 25 years of filming, this was the first incident in which any crew member had been seriously injured or killed.[12] A Cops crew working in Springfield, Missouri also wrapped following the Omaha incident.[17] In Dion's honor, the show aired an hour-long "best of" episode featuring his work on its September 20, 2014 episode.[18]

Opening sequence[edit]

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The show's theme song is "Bad Boys", performed by reggae group Inner Circle.

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." Burt Lancaster provided the following narration on the pilot episode. "Cops is about real people, and real criminals. It was filmed entirely on location, with the men and women who work in law enforcement."

During at least the first season, episodes featured original scoring in a vein similar to the instrumental backing of the opening song. Some cues were short, others longer, usually over montages. Among the composers who scored episodes were Michael Lewis and Nathan Wang.[citation needed]


Series overview[19]
Season Episodes First aired Last aired
19 36 September 10, 2006 July 28, 2007
20 38 September 8, 2007 August 2, 2008
21 36 September 7, 2008 July 25, 2009
22 36 September 12, 2009 July 31, 2010
23 22 September 11, 2010 June 18, 2011
24 22 September 10, 2011 April 7, 2012
25 16 December 15, 2012 May 4, 2013
26 22 September 14, 2013 March 8, 2014
27 34 July 12, 2014 May 9, 2015
28 33 June 20, 2015 TBA


In 1993, reruns of Cops went into broadcast syndication, and have remained there ever since. As of fall 2013, it appears on cable on Spike as part of the agreement for that network to air new episodes, after several years on truTV. Older episodes are carried by Cloo as of September 2014, after spending years on sister network G4, which was discontinued in November 2014.


Cops is broadcast in the UK on Fox, Movie Mix and CBS Reality. In Portugal the show is aired on Fox Crime, in Brazil on TruTV, in Colombia on TruTV, in Australia on One and CI Network, in Japan on Fox Crime, in India on STAR World and FOX Crime, in Norway on Viasat 4, in Sweden on TV6 and TV10, and in Denmark on Canal9.

In Canada, both the original and Reloaded versions of the series aired on Action. BiteTV began airing the series in December 2014 (until its relaunch as Makeful in August 2015), while sibling channel RadX began airing it on Monday, August 3, 2015.[20]

Cops 2.0[edit]

An enhanced version of the series branded as Cops 2.0 with live web chats and program facts aired on G4 from May 2007 – 2009.[21]

Cops Reloaded[edit]

In January 2013, 20th Century television announced that a new syndicated version titled Cops Reloaded would begin airing on CMT as well as local stations.[22] The new format features slightly edited segments of classic Cops episodes, allowing for four segments per each half hour episode. This version contains all new graphics and soundbites during the opening theme song, and older segments are up-converted to high definition.[23]

Home media[edit]

The series has had several "best-of" home videos, including Cops: In Hot Pursuit, Cops: Shots Fired, Cops: Bad Girls, and Cops: Caught in the Act which include uncensored "too hot for TV" segments containing profanity and nudity that was cut from the network version.[24]

A Cops: 20th Season Anniversary two-disc DVD with viewer favorites from each season, several behind the scenes features, and the original one-hour pilot was released in the US and Canada on February 19, 2008.[25]


In 1995 Time Warner Interactive released an arcade video game based on the show. The game uses live action video for graphics and consists of a driving stage and a shooting stage very similar to Mad Dog McCree.[26]

In 1999, Cops associate producer and sound mixer Hank Barr published The Jump-Out Boys, a book about the show's production.



The show has been criticized for its predominant focus on the criminal activities among the poor.[citation needed] 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 2002 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 in 2005 stated in response to a request for Cops taping that "police work is not entertainment. What they do trivializes policing. We've never seriously even considered taping."[27] The Fairfax County Police Department, located in Northern Virginia, has similarly refused to allow Cops taping since the show originally aired as has the Washington DC Police. In addition, the show has rarely featured any federal law enforcement agencies.

Impact of filming on the Dalia Dippolito case[edit]

During the trial of Dalia Dippolito, who is accused of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, the defense attorney claimed that Mrs Dippolito was tricked into signing the Cops release form.[28] Also the defense attorney claimed that her husband orchestrated the plot to get aired on Cops.[29] However, both defenses failed, and Mrs Dippolito was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.[30] She was later released on an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013, pending a retrial, scheduled for May 23, 2016.[31]


The show X-Files released an episode "X-Cops" (season 7, episode 12) in which FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully collaborate with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in order to catch a mysterious, shapeshifting entity. In the tradition of the real-life Cops program, the entire episode is shot on video. Some actual deputies were featured in the episode.

Animal Planet aired its own version called Animal Cops, featuring animal control services and animal welfare organizations.

"Troops" is a mockumentary film by Kevin Rubio that had its debut at San Diego Comic-Con International on July 18, 1997 and was subsequently distributed via the internet. The film is a parody of COPS, set in the Star Wars universe. In the film, Imperial stormtroopers from the infamous Black Sheep Squadron patrolling the Dune Sea on the planet Tatooine run into some very familiar characters while being filmed for the hit Imperial TV show Troops.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Episodes: Cops". TV Guide. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (May 6, 2013). "'Cops' Cancelled By Fox, Picked Up By Spike TV". 
  3. ^ Deci, Ben (May 17, 2011). "Fox Cancels America's Most Wanted". KTXL. Retrieved June 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Our Foreign Staff (May 17, 2011). "America's Most Wanted is cancelled". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved June 15, 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Official COPS Website". Retrieved June 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (October 12, 2012). "'Cops' Cruises Into 25th Season Saturday, December 15 on FOX" (Press release). TV by the Numbers. Retrieved October 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ Scott Neumyer (January 24, 2014). "Cops Creator John Langley Talks Bad Boys, the Move to Spike, & "Reality" TV". Parade. 
  8. ^ Cops Ending audio, from
  9. ^ "'Cops' Moves to Spike TV Saturday, September 14 at 8:00PM" (Press release). The Futon Critic. August 26, 2013. 
  10. ^ COPS Season 27 Premiere – 7/12/14
  11. ^ Maggie O'Brien, Alia Conley (27 August 2014). "Omaha police chief says officers justified in firing their weapons in Wendy's shooting". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Sasha Goldstein (27 August 2014). "‘Cops’ crew member, robbery suspect both shot dead by Nebraska police". New York Daily News. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  13. ^ William Cummings (28 August 2014). "Police fired shot that killed 'Cops' crewmember". USA Today. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  14. ^ Emerson Clarridge, Jay Withrow (27 August 2014). "Officials: 'Cops' TV show crew member dies after being shot during Wendy's robbery". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "'Cops' crew member dies after officer-involved shooting". WOWT. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "'Cops' crew member dies after being shot in Omaha". Associated Press. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Chief: 'Cops' crew leaves Springfield early". Associated Press. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  18. ^ Ray Kelly (September 15, 2014). "Spike TV to honor 'Cops' crewmember Bryce Dion of Lawrence who was killed by police during filming". Mass Live. 
  19. ^ "Cops on Amazon". Amazon. Amazon. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ G4 (May 24, 2007). "Cops 2.0 Press Release" (Press release). G4. Retrieved July 28, 2007. 
  22. ^ Paige Albiniak (January 10, 2013). "Exclusive: Twentieth Clears 'COPS' Reboot, 'COPS Reloaded,' in 80% of U.S." (Press release). Retrieved November 28, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Cops Reloaded: About The Show". CMT. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  24. ^ Cops (1989) DVD releases
  25. ^ "Cops 20th Anniversary". Retrieved June 15, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Hot at the Arcades: COPS". GamePro (IDG) (81): 17. June 1995. 
  27. ^ Ben Grossman (July 31, 2005). "Bad Boys=Big Money; Cops has no stars, no plot and no contests, and it's a killer on TV". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved June 15, 2011. 
  28. ^ David Lohr (September 22, 2011). "Dalia Dippolito Murder-For-Hire Case Featured In Controversial COPS Episode". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 10, 2012. 
  29. ^ Andrea Canning; Jessica Hopper (April 27, 2011). "Florida Woman Dalia Dippolito Uses Reality TV Defense in Murder for Hire Trial". ABC News. Retrieved March 10, 2012. 
  30. ^ THOMAS BERMAN, RICHARD BRENNER and ASHLEY BRIDGES (June 17, 2011). "Newlywed Dalia Dippolito Gets 20 Years in Murder Sting; Judge Calls Her 'Pure Evil'". ABC News. 
  31. ^

External links[edit]