The truth behind the TV show Cops

  • Published: 02 May 2019
  • The longest-running reality show in The US.

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    “When it premiered, “Cops” was one of the first reality television shows and it has been broadcasting continuously since 1989. In this video, we worked with the podcast “Running From Cops” to understand why the show has stayed on TV for so long. At the time it was selected for development by Fox executive Stephen Chao, the writer’s strike of 1988 had created a desire for unscripted television that didn’t require hiring union talent.

    But once “Cops” was on the air, it was the vision of “Cops” creator John Langley that would make the show last. He understood that the show presented a new opportunity for law enforcement agencies and it was his approach to making “Cops” that has kept police interested in appearing on the show. While “Cops” no longer has the high TV ratings it garnered during the nineties, it has been a persistent presence on television and it has spawned several imitators, including the very popular show “Live PD”.

    Like “Cops”, these shows use variations of a reality format developed by “Cops” that features police performing their daily duties. The stripped-down format has remained nearly the same since the show began in 1989 and during the thirty years since “Cops” has had the same agreement with police that agree to appear on the reality show.

    To learn what that agreement is, make sure to watch the video above.

    To learn even more about “Cops”, make sure to listen to “Running From Cops”: a podcast that investigates various aspects of “Cops” and examines its cultural impact on policing on America.


    2018 ratings (“Roseanne” no longer running):

    “New York Times”, January 7, 1989
    “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” March 11, 1989
    “Arizona Republic” March 10, 1989
    “The Californian” November 24, 2015

    “Cops” filming locations:

    “Cops” viewership:
    “Law Enforcement and Crime on ‘Cops’ and ‘World’s Wildest Police Videos’: Anecdotal Form and the Justification of Racial Profiling” Theodore O. Prosise, & Ann Johnson p. 74 is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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Comments • 2 972

  • Vox
    Vox   6 months back

    If you want to learn more about the TV show Cops, make sure to check out the podcast "Running From Cops". Listen here:

    • ThisIsMyRealName
      ThisIsMyRealName  3 months back

      Cops is cheap to produce, due to the police officers and the police brutality victims alike being unpaid. see the Citations Needed media podcast. ditto prison "reality tv" posts, prisoners are unpaid.

    • Uilium Powell
      Uilium Powell  4 months back

      @toni gonzales Kinda sounds like your talking about Vox.

    • Spider_guard_kid
      Spider_guard_kid  5 months back

      I hate you

    • Dirt Rules
      Dirt Rules  5 months back

      I came out of this 8 minutes with no new information or perspective

    • J Opie
      J Opie  5 months back

      Oh vox, you always try to spin a story.

      You start the story with a seed of truth (Cops starting around the writers strike), then spin it full mental as an anti police video.

  • Jean-Luc Martel
    Jean-Luc Martel  11 minutes back

    even on TV COPS are not your friends. WHAT A SURPRISE.

    • Braappy McBraapface
      Braappy McBraapface  2 days back

      *_RUN RONNIE, RUN!_*

      • June Bugg
        June Bugg  4 days back

        Only in broward 🤦🏿‍♂️.

        • DL Lambert
          DL Lambert  4 days back

          If I recall a Cops sound guy was shot & killed in a Wendy's 🍔🍟🥤 in Omaha NE. He went into the side & a Omaha cop shot him aiming for a armed robbery suspect.

          • The55nomad
            The55nomad  5 days back


            • the cool guy
              the cool guy  6 days back

              kid: I love pudding!
              POLICE GET ON THE GROUND !!

              • Ya'll Mind If I Hit Dat T-Pose XD

                And now we have Live PD

                • Ω
                  Ω  1 weeks back

                  Police: literally murders people
                  American Public: *anger*
                  Police: films TV show
                  American Public: Cops are so nice

                  • Vasiliy Medvedev
                    Vasiliy Medvedev  1 weeks back

                    And what??

                    • Bruh Momentus
                      Bruh Momentus  1 weeks back

                      so basically
                      _b a z i n g a_

                      • Amy Taylor
                        Amy Taylor  2 weeks back

                        More commentary on Live PD please!

                        • Ur Mom
                          Ur Mom  2 weeks back

                          Salinas is also on Live PD

                          • Sade Jones
                            Sade Jones  3 weeks back

                            Wow... The racism.... Stinks to high heaven. You know they targeted people of color.

                            • lee hancock
                              lee hancock  3 weeks back

                              Since when does VOX speak the truth

                              • Wurminator
                                Wurminator  3 weeks back

                                Oh, so cops started as an anti-strike scheme?
                                I hate everything about that

                                • COD Drastic
                                  COD Drastic  3 weeks back

                                  orrr maybe theyre trying to show no one cop is the same

                                  • xX_Ultimate Youtuber_Xx

                                    5:26 organinzation

                                    • Matthew Joinson
                                      Matthew Joinson  3 weeks back

                                      In the UK, we have shows that have been on TV for way longer than this. For example, Coronation Street has been on 3 times a week since 1960

                                      • you're adopted
                                        you're adopted  3 weeks back

                                        actually its because of penguinz0 or moistcritikal's

                                        • anthony mo
                                          anthony mo  4 weeks back

                                          4:40 Kendrick out here wild'n lol.

                                          • Paul Martinelli
                                            Paul Martinelli  4 weeks back

                                            Check You Tube for Police Encounters. Watch Driving while Black, Illegal Police Stops Searches Home Invasions the list goes on and on. Filmed when the police are not watching and others filming because it is your right to film Police while they are preforming their duty. Some try to take the Phone Camera to erase the video or destroy the camera. That is the REAL COPS in OUR AMERICA.

                                            • max9x9
                                              max9x9  4 weeks back

                                              I CAN BREAK THESE CUFFS

                                              • GEO BLASTER
                                                GEO BLASTER  4 weeks back

                                                5:27 orgzgznation??

                                                • medic2807
                                                  medic2807  4 weeks back

                                                  So the take-home, it seems from Vox, is that police departments should not be transparent. Pretty much what I'm picking up...

                                                  • Mista Keez
                                                    Mista Keez  4 weeks back

                                                    So for every one bad incident involving cops, there is months and months of positive incidents shown by shows like cops. I think the good > bad.

                                                    • Raul S.
                                                      Raul S.  1 months back

                                                      Live PD always switches to another state when it getting good

                                                      • IeatyellowSNO
                                                        IeatyellowSNO  1 months back

                                                        Garbage. Reality TV is poison.

                                                        • Zaltic
                                                          Zaltic  1 months back

                                                          The Police DEPT need to review the footage because they don't want any private information getting released...

                                                          • mitchell f.
                                                            mitchell f.  1 months back

                                                            My teacher was on this show, as a cop not a criminal

                                                            • The Mystery Fan
                                                              The Mystery Fan  1 months back

                                                              The truth? From Vox? Hahaha

                                                              • Jacob Monnin
                                                                Jacob Monnin  1 months back

                                                                Cuz it's funny to see dum dums

                                                                • Maafa 1619
                                                                  Maafa 1619  1 months back

                                                                  I haven't seen Cops since 1989.

                                                                  • Skankhunt42
                                                                    Skankhunt42  1 months back

                                                                    Disband the DEA—it’s a useless bureaucracy— and decriminalize all drugs.

                                                                    • workoutfanatic787
                                                                      workoutfanatic787  1 months back

                                                                      It’s a sad excuse to laugh at the poor and underprivileged, extremely exploitative

                                                                      • Roan the Delphox
                                                                        Roan the Delphox  4 weeks back

                                                                        No, it's a way to laugh at law breakers getting a dose of Karma from good cops who serve to protect us. Extremely funny.

                                                                    • Leslie Claus
                                                                      Leslie Claus  1 months back

                                                                      I was on Cops. Where's my interview? XD

                                                                      • UWU
                                                                        UWU  1 months back


                                                                        • bert fromarketin
                                                                          bert fromarketin  1 months back

                                                                          Cops was always live from Fort Worth, Dallas or L.A

                                                                          • DeeDee_Dubois
                                                                            DeeDee_Dubois  1 months back

                                                                            Dope I hope you guys do a video on America’s Most wanted next

                                                                            • sonic 768
                                                                              sonic 768  1 months back

                                                                              Is it weird that I’ve never heard of Cops before?

                                                                              • Angela Thibodeaux
                                                                                Angela Thibodeaux  2 months back

                                                                                Policemen didn't exist in the 18th or 19th century. Americans self-governed themselves.

                                                                                • Angela Thibodeaux
                                                                                  Angela Thibodeaux  2 months back

                                                                                  thats how you know the police department and FBI are total frauds

                                                                              • Eric Fernandez
                                                                                Eric Fernandez  2 months back

                                                                                Salas puts it down, Holmes!

                                                                                • Spencer Barendregt
                                                                                  Spencer Barendregt  2 months back

                                                                                  LIVE PD all the way

                                                                                  • Jack Gookler
                                                                                    Jack Gookler  2 months back

                                                                                    A propagandists view of any truth.

                                                                                    • Shaun Riley
                                                                                      Shaun Riley  2 months back

                                                                                      Cops is awesome gotta love when they talk down all these scumbags!! Shot em Punch em tackle em!!! Haha

                                                                                      • Jhordin Graves
                                                                                        Jhordin Graves  2 months back

                                                                                        That would be a clean tackle at :31 in the NFL.

                                                                                        • Jonh  Smith
                                                                                          Jonh Smith  2 months back

                                                                                          Why did i think this video was going to show us how the show is staged or how come they dont show the bad guy getting away thats reality

                                                                                          • first last
                                                                                            first last  2 months back

                                                                                            The funny thing is the few times when I've tuned into Cops, it didn't leave a good impression of police. Funny even with a tailored and censored to give them a good reputation production, they still come off as jerks often enough.