Jimmy Smits, left, and Dennis Franz in “NYPD Blue.” Frank Carroll/ABC

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

As the United States engages in a complex discussion around police brutality and systemic racism, many are now calling for a restructuring of television shows that depict police officers.

Critics are raising questions about how shows depicting police in fictional and reality-based context may subconsciously affect the way people perceive police officers, as well as what is involved with the policing process itself. The popular television shows “Live PD” and “Cops” have been canceled by their respective networks as a result of the scrutiny they received for “glorifying police brutality.” A&E, the network that formerly ran Live PD, issued a statement on the decision to cancel the show: “Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them.”

While some people are lauding the cancellation of shows depicting police, others argue that the widespread removal of police from television is overreaching, pointing to the recent removal of a fictional police dog on the popular children’s show “Paw Patrol.” The creators and stars of police-centric shows are speaking up as well. “Law & Order” will be adding new voices to the writers’ room to reflect a more diverse perspective, according to showrunner Warren Leight. Leight stated, “I think we’ve tried really hard in the last year to show how class and race affect the outcomes of justice in society, but I’m beginning to suspect ‘really hard’ wasn’t enough.” 

Glen Mazzara, executive producer of the popular “crooked cop” drama series “The Shield,” detailed in a Twitter thread how the LAPD allegedly threatened to sue FOX if they ever mentioned the show was based on the LAPD. Mazzara went on to explain the alleged steps the network took to keep from offending the LAPD, adding that the show took place right after 9/11, and “People hated us for portraying cops as anything but heroes at that time.” “The Wire” series alum Wendell Pierce defended his former show in response to a Hollywood Reporter piece. The article simultaneously lauded “The Wire” as the “best show ever made” while criticizing it for violence presented “as a piece of the character arc for the officers” instead of focusing on how violence at the hands of police affects victims. Pierce argued that “The Wire” did in fact take steps to show police brutality through an unfiltered lens, stating, “We demonstrated moral ambiguities and the pathology that leads to the abuses.” He went on to call the show “a forecast of the protests of today.” 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

The Protests Come for ‘Paw Patrol’ – New York Times – 6/10/20
The effort to publicize police brutality also means banishing the good-cop archetype, which reigns on both television and in viral videos of the protests themselves. “Paw Patrol” seems harmless enough, and that’s the point: The movement rests on understanding that cops do plenty of harm.

Lara Logan warns push to scrap police shows will remove images of ‘what a good cop looks like’ – Fox News – 6/11/20
“So the only images you ever see, then, of policemen is when they can capture an image of someone in riot gear or someone who is armed, with an unarmed person or someone who looks like a victim on the ground, and sometimes they are victims and sometimes they’re not,” she went on. “If we remove all images of what policemen are supposed to be, then what kind of role model is that?” she said. “It’s part of the erasing history [mission].”

How to watch police shows in the age of Black Lives Matter – The Guardian – 6/12/20
In either case, the culprit is clear: racism in the NYPD. The solution is equally clear: change from within. […] Yet even this episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine disseminates the myth that there are good cops and bad cops, and that if there are enough good cops, the police will no longer kill us.

Cop shows won’t just disappear. How can we reinvent them? – Vox – 6/11/20
For instance, the series NYPD Blue, which ran from 1994 to 2006 and broke new ground for adult subject matter on broadcast TV, featured a racist, anger-prone detective named Andy Sipowicz at its center. The show didn’t celebrate Andy, but because he was portrayed by the mesmerizing Dennis Franz, viewers couldn’t help but be drawn to him all the same. […] as if trying to remind viewers that, actually, Andy did some terrible things.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Patrick Bet-David on Twitter, 6/11/20: Cops TV show canceled after 32 years. LEGO halted City Police Station. A&E pulled LIVE PD from schedule. And now it’s Paw patrol? Never punish the majority for the dirty work of a few. This will back fire tremendously.

Lisette Voytko on Twitter, 6/11/20: Sat down with Punisher creator @gerryconway to talk about how he’s working to reclaim the skull from police and fringe admirers for #BlackLivesMatter—and how fan

asian stevie nicks on Twitter, 6/11/20: The one cop show that should be saved in my opinion is Psych! The starring roles aren’t cops, but “psychic” detectives who make a mockery of the local police department! They prove how unnecessary the police is and call out power-hungry dangerously inept/corrupt police chiefs!

Frances Martel on Twitter, 6/12/20: I’m not saying that, I’m just saying people who want Paw Patrol canceled because it’s a “cop show” are also the ones who want community forces to replace cops so ???

Glen Mazzara on Twitter, 6/11/20: #TheShield was inspired by the LAPD Rampart scandal involving LAPD’s CRASH unit. Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums. That should tell you a lot.

Wendell Pierce on Twitter, 6/7/20: Thousands of things. I wish we did a season on the disparity of healthcare. One of the young actors playing a troubled and violent girl was actual on full scholarship to an Ivy League college. I wanted that story told but we were focused on what wasn’t working, not what was.

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