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Reality TV Shows About Police Work: Entertainment at a Price

Posted by Steve Karimi | Sep 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

The reality television show “Cops” has been on the air for 30 years, making it the longest-running reality show of all time. New episodes are still being filmed, and it is in syndication as well, meaning you are very likely to find an episode on your TV at any given moment if you scan through enough channels.

“Live PD” is another police reality show that has become popular recently. A live-action show, “Live PD” has a host who follows several police and sheriff departments around on a Friday or Saturday night in various cities across the country. If the action from one live-stream boring, the host will switch to another city where something more exciting is going on.

Law enforcement agencies that have been involved with both “Cops” and “Live PD” claim that the shows have done wonders to boost job recruitment in their departments. But a podcast released last spring, “Running from Cops,” examined these two shows in-depth and uncovered some pretty grim realities that you probably had not thought of.

The Realities of Reality Police TV

The show “Cops” is filmed and then edited before an episode is aired. The researchers of the podcast “Running from Cops” found that most of the time, “Cops” producers let the law enforcement agency to edit the footage before it is aired. This means that presumably, law enforcement is choosing what viewers will and will not see.

Alleged suspects on “Cops” either never sign consent forms agreeing to be shown in an episode, or they are coerced by either the law enforcement officers or the producers of the show to sign a consent form. In some cases, suspects were told they might receive a lesser charge of whatever offense they were arrested for if they agreed to sign a consent form.

Both “Cops” and “Live PD” also glorify aggressive policing. If there's drama, the better the ratings, and so both shows tend to focus on situations where aggressive police force is used, which leads to normalizing that type of behavior among law enforcement. These shows also focus primarily on suspects of color being arrested, which promotes the racial stereotype that minorities commit more crimes than white people.

Finally, some of the suspects who have been shown on “Cops” episodes have had their lives irreparably changed for the worse. One woman who was arrested in a “Cops” episode but then later found not guilty in court had to move from her hometown because of the backlash she received from being seen on television. A lawyer for Texas man said his client “suffered serious injuries for the sake of reality TV” when he was arrested in June during a “Live PD” broadcast.

The Bottom Line from Steve Karimi, Defense Attorney

In the United States, citizens are innocent until proven guilty, even after they've been arrested and charged with a crime. These police reality shows glorify overzealous police, overrepresent minorities committing crimes, and normalize dangerous interactions between law enforcement and alleged suspects.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and need a strong defense to protect your rights and your reputation, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Contact them today or call 206-621-8777. 

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.