Cops (TV series)

Not to be confused with COPS (animated TV series) or Top Cops, a 1990–93 CBS reality TV series.
Created by John Langley
Malcolm Barbour
Narrated by Harry Newman
Opening theme "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle
Composer(s) Michael Lewis (pilot)
Nathan Wang (season one)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 29
No. of episodes 994[1] (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) John Langley
Malcolm Barbour (1989–1994)
Producer(s) Andy Thomas (1989)
Paul Stojanovich (1989–1990)
Bertram van Munster
Murray Jordan
Jimmy Langley
Morgan Langley
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Barbour/Langley Productions (1989–1999)
Fox Television Stations (1989–2013)
20th Century Fox Television (1989–1992, 1995–2013)
20th Television (1992–1995)
Langley Productions (1999–present)
Spike Original Productions (2013–present)
Distributor 20th Television
Viacom Media Networks
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, Spanish dubbing available on SAP for post-2000 episodes)
Original release March 11, 1989 – present
External links

Cops (stylized as COPS) is an American half-hour 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] John Walsh appeared on Cops many times. 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, which does not consist of any narration as well as 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 the first 25 seasons, Cops was broadcast by Fox with repeats from earlier seasons syndicated by local television stations and cable networks, including truTV and the now defunct G4.[6] After Fox canceled the show in May 2013, Spike picked it up for an additional four seasons, in addition to reruns of previous seasons.[2] The 28th season of the series premiered on June 20, 2015, and ended on April 30, 2016. Season 29 premiered on June 4, 2016.

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-involved 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. 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 season aired in 1989, and consisted of 15 episodes, 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 that does not consist of any narration, music, and scripts, which would become the show's formula.

Since the third episode of season two, every episode ends with a police radio excerpt referencing the intersection of SE 132nd St. and SE Bush St. in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of 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] On the first season of Cops, instead of "132 and Bush, I've got him at gunpoint", it was a police radio excerpt from the Broward County, Florida Sheriff's Office. In the first two episodes of the second season, a different police radio excerpt from the Portland Bureau of Police was used.

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 the show. However, it was later announced that Spike TV had picked up the series for an additional four seasons. The 26th season premiered on September 14, 2013, and ended on March 8, 2014, the 27th season premiered on July 12, 2014, and ended on May 9, 2015, the 28th season premiered on June 20, 2015 and ended on April 30, 2016, and the current 29th season of the series premiered on June 4, 2016.[9][10]

Camera crew involvement

The camera crew that follows the officers are instructed to maintain a fly on the wall position, 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.

In an episode in Season 11 that took place in 1998 in Atlanta, Georgia, 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 the air.

In another episode, a rape suspect fled and outran officers, only to have the cameraman follow him the entire time, until police caught up to the suspect and subdued him. (Season 10 Episode 19)

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.

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.

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 crew 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.

During filming of an episode in Season 27, the camera crew assisted in detaining the passenger of a vehicle whose operator had fled on foot from officers in Lafayette, Louisiana. As police chased the driver, the camera crew secured the vehicle by giving directions to the passenger; at one point, the camera operator can be seen gesturing to the passenger to place the latter's hands on the dashboard. The driver successfully evaded police and a warrant was issued for his arrest.[11]

2014 Wendy's shooting incident

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.[12][13]

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.[14] The suspect, in addition to Cops audio technician Bryce Dion, was hit by police fire, and transported to the hospital where they were both pronounced dead shortly thereafter.[15][16][17]

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.[13] A Cops crew working in Springfield, Missouri also wrapped following the Omaha incident.[18] In Dion's honor, the show aired an hour-long "best of" episode featuring his work on its September 20, 2014 episode.[19]

Opening sequence

Inner Circle – Bad Boys

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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 disclaimer in Seasons 1-2 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 crime. 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.


Main article: List of Cops episodes
SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
115March 11, 1989 (1989-03-11)June 17, 1989 (1989-06-17)
231September 23, 1989 (1989-09-23)May 5, 1990 (1990-05-05)
342September 15, 1990 (1990-09-15)August 31, 1991 (1991-08-31)
445August 10, 1991 (1991-08-10)December 12, 1992 (1992-12-12)
546August 15, 1992 (1992-08-15)September 4, 1993 (1993-09-04)
646August 7, 1993 (1993-08-07)September 24, 1994 (1994-09-24)
741May 14, 1994 (1994-05-14)July 29, 1995 (1995-07-29)
843July 29, 1995 (1995-07-29)July 13, 1996 (1996-07-13)
936August 31, 1996 (1996-08-31)July 26, 1997 (1997-07-26)
1036September 6, 1997 (1997-09-06)August 1, 1998 (1998-08-01)
1136September 12, 1998 (1998-09-12)September 18, 1999 (1999-09-18)
1236September 11, 1999 (1999-09-11)July 29, 2000 (2000-07-29)
1340May 20, 2000 (2000-05-20)July 7, 2001 (2001-07-07)
1436September 1, 2001 (2001-09-01)September 21, 2002 (2002-09-21)
1536May 4, 2002 (2002-05-04)November 1, 2003 (2003-11-01)
1641April 26, 2003 (2003-04-26)October 2, 2004 (2004-10-02)
1736May 15, 2004 (2004-05-15)August 6, 2005 (2005-08-06)
1836September 10, 2005 (2005-09-10)July 22, 2006 (2006-07-22)
1936September 10, 2006 (2006-09-10)July 28, 2007 (2007-07-28)
2038September 8, 2007 (2007-09-08)August 2, 2008 (2008-08-02)
2136September 7, 2008 (2008-09-07)July 25, 2009 (2009-07-25)
2236September 12, 2009 (2009-09-12)July 31, 2010 (2010-07-31)
2322September 11, 2010 (2010-09-11)June 18, 2011 (2011-06-18)
2422September 10, 2011 (2011-09-10)April 7, 2012 (2012-04-07)
2516December 15, 2012 (2012-12-15)May 4, 2013 (2013-05-04)
2622September 14, 2013 (2013-09-14)March 8, 2014 (2014-03-08)
2734July 12, 2014 (2014-07-12)May 9, 2015 (2015-05-09)
2833June 20, 2015 (2015-06-20)April 30, 2016 (2016-04-30)
29TBAJune 4, 2016 (2016-06-04)TBA


In 1993, reruns of Cops went into broadcast syndication, and have remained there ever since. As of the fall 2013 it began to air mainly on Spike on the cable side as part of the agreement for that network to air new episodes, after several years on truTV. Older episodes began to be carried by Cloo as of September 2014, after spending years on sister network G4, which was discontinued in December 2014. Local station syndication of the show was prevalent on most Fox stations and affiliates at the time, but as of 2015, old episodes were shifted into Cops Reloaded, as described further on. WGN America also shows reruns of the regular version. At the start of 2016 the episodes in the Cloo/G4 package were moved into the Spike syndicated package when the former G4-era carriage agreement expired, giving that network the rights to the majority of the series.


Cops is broadcast in the UK on CBS Drama, CBS Reality, Fox, Movie Mix, Spike and W. In Portugal the show is aired on Fox Crime, in Brazil on TruTV, in Colombia on TruTV, in Australia on Network Ten, One (a sub-channel of Network Ten) 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

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

In January 2013, 20th 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 modified and framed to a sharpened widescreen image for the high definition format if they were originated in standard definition.[23]

Home media

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 edited out of 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]

DVD name Ep # Discs Region 1 (USA) DVD special features
Cops: Shots Fired Special 1 March 23, 2004 Never before seen footage.
Cops: Bad Girls Special 1 March 23, 2004 Never before seen footage.
Cops: Caught in the Act Special 1 March 23, 2004 Never before seen footage.
Cops: The Bad Karma Vol 1 and 2 Special 2 August 8, 2006 None
Cops: 20th Anniversary Edition 1 2 February 19, 2008 Cops 20th Season Special

Original Pilot Episode

Parodies and tributes

Famous Fan Favorite

Scenes from all 20 Seasons

The Story of Cops

Cops on Cops

Lights! Camera! Action!

Toughest Takedowns

Cops: Wildest Chases 7 1 May 19, 2015 None


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 X-Files released a pseudo crossover episode of Cops called "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.


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 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, since their agents usually work undercover and don't want their identities revealed.

Impact of filming on the Dalia Dippolito case

In 2011, Cops dedicated an entire episode to the case of Dalia Dippolito of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was accused of solicitation to commit first-degree murder after being secretly videotaped hiring a hitman (who was actually an undercover cop) to kill her husband in 2009. At trial, her 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 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, pending a retrial on May 23, 2016.[31] On August 17, 2016, the appeals court rejected her appeal without comment.[32] Her retrial is due to begin with jury selection on December 1, 2016.[33]

The case has also been featured on ABC's 20/20 and NBC's Dateline.[34][35]


According to Deadline, Ruben Fleischer will direct a feature adaptation of Cops as an edgy narrative feature with a buddy comedy bent on the order of a Lethal Weapon with Fleischer co-producing the film with David Bernad through The District along with COPS rights holder Langley Films' John Langley, Cameron Fay will write the script and Boies/Schiller Film Group will finance the film.[36]

See also


  1. "Episodes: Cops". The TVDB. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  2. 1 2 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
  12. 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.
  13. 1 2 Sasha Goldstein (27 August 2014). "'Cops' crew member, robbery suspect both shot dead by Nebraska police". New York Daily News. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  14. William Cummings (28 August 2014). "Police fired shot that killed 'Cops' crewmember". USA Today. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  15. 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.
  16. "'Cops' crew member dies after officer-involved shooting". WOWT. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  17. "'Cops' crew member dies after being shot in Omaha". Associated Press. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  18. "Chief: 'Cops' crew leaves Springfield early". Associated Press. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  19. Ray Kelly (September 15, 2014). "Spike TV to honor 'Cops' crewmember Bryce Dion of Lawrence who was killed by police during filming". Mass Live.
  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. Dalia Dippolito to be retried in May in Boynton murder-for-hire Palm Beach Post, September 3, 2015
  32. Appeals court rejects Dalia Dippolito’s request to dismiss murder-for-hire case WPBF News, August 18, 2016
  33. Dalia Dippolito's retrial in murder-for-hire case set for December Sun Sentinel, September 19, 2016
  34. ABC'S 20/20: Dalia Dippolito Sets the Record Straight About Murder for Hire Video, Appeal Inquisitor, December 20, 2015
  35. Dalia Dippolito Murder-For-Hire Case Featured In ‘Dateline NBC’ Episode (VIDEO) Huffington Post, December 14, 2011
  36. Fleming, Jr, Mike (August 19, 2016). "'Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer Attaching To Direct Movie Based On TV Show 'COPS'". Deadline.

External links

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