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After 'Defunding Police' Debate, 18 Crime Shows On Prime Time

In 2020 the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people prompted many Americans to take a hard look at the police. Including the portrayals of police on television. Two ride-along reality programs, including the decades-old “Cops,” were taken off the air, the New York Times reports. The police comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” rethought its final season. As critics called for a radical re-examination of what some called “copaganda” shows, the actor, writer and director Issa Rae told The Hollywood Reporter that if she were writing one, she would make it about community policing. “Hopefully,” she said, it would be “a boring, uneventful show that would get canceled.” Two years later, it is clear that rumors of the cop shows' demise were greatly exaggerated.

“Cops” is back, now on the Fox Nation streaming service. Eighteen crime-related programs are slated for prime-time slots on the major broadcast networks; three of the five most-viewed scripted network shows last season featured law enforcement (a fourth was about firefighters). The industry’s attitude was perhaps summarized at the Emmy Awards ceremony in September, when stars from the “Law & Order” franchise were introduced by the comedian Sam Jay as “two cops no one wants to see defunded.” Beneath the surface, there are signs that the genre has been evolving in response to the current climate, which saw public trust in law enforcement reach a record low two years ago, even as a political backlash to some of the sharpest slogans, like “Defund the Police,” began to form.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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