The long-running reality TV show “Cops” has been officially canceled amidst numerous protests against what activists deem police brutality and racial inequality. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 has spurred a growing movement for changes in police policy, including protests throughout Texas. The show “Cops” originally aired on the FOX network, and it had since moved to Spike TV, and finally, Paramount, which made the decision to cancel the series. It previously came under fire twice in the last two decades for having content heavily highlighting white police officers and African- American or Hispanic suspects.
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The TV series followed county sheriff’s deputies and police officers during their activities and patrols, the majority involving the arrest of suspects in non-violent crimes. Each segment would typically consist of three parts, often ending in an arrest. Researchers from Old Dominion University released a report in June 1994 identifying that the show often portrayed Latino and African-American men as perpetrators, with very few white suspects featured. The police officers it followed were also most often white. When John Langley, the show’s co-creator, was informed of the study results, he made an active effort to include white offenders as a part of each episode.
10 years later, another study found similar results. It was accused of focusing on crimes committed by the poorer class, and in rebuttal, the creators said there weren’t enough white-collar arrests to include in the demanding format. Likewise, some departments have refused to allow “Cops” TV crews to ride along with their members.
In 2013, the Color of Change civil rights group started a campaign pleading with the FOX network not to renew the “Cops” series. They urged advertisers to withdraw their support of the unscripted show and claimed that since its 1989 debut, it has distorted and dehumanized those portrayed as suspects in the criminal justice system, particularly black Americans, for a profit. At the time of its cancellation, the show was in the process of preparing for a 33rd season premiere on June 15, 2020, and there are currently more than 1,100 episodes.