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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Running from COPS: How the TV show seriously screws up the communities where it films

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

Dan Taberski and the team behind Missing Richard Simmons investigate COPS — the longest running reality show in TV history — and its cultural impact on policing in America. Our story begins with the footage of a routine arrest behind a church in Georgia...⠀

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:

The One-Celled Amoeba


Investigative reporting


Dan Taberski of Headlong

Sound/production quality:

Very good

Rating/age suitability:

Best for adults

Approximate length of episodes:

35-45 minutes

Curricular ties:

This could potentially add to a conversation about Black Lives Matter/police brutality or a course that covers law.

Similar recommended pods:


Podcast Librarian’s Review:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I enjoyed Dan Tiberski’s other Headlong podcasts (especially Surviving Y2K), so I knew I had to check this one out. I guess I was expecting an exploration of the appeal of the COPS TV show over the decades, but it ended up being much deeper than that. Unfortunately, many of the police departments that agree to work with COPS seem to play to the format of the show and make unnecessary arrests in order to make good TV. There are some episodes that talk about how the suspects who appear on the show don’t remember signing a release, didn’t understand what they were signing, or were too intoxicated to sign an agreement like that in the first place. The series details several wrongful arrests that led suspects to be jailed for days or months on end for no good reason. Even those who had reason to be arrested expressed that they had not consented to be filmed, and the ramifications of their appearance on the show has caused real-life consequences, like losing their job or home. The stories are wild but also sad at times. There are some smaller conversations about how race played a part in who the cops arrested while being filmed and how, in general, the suspects who appear on the show are low-income and struggling--in other words, the people who stand to lose the most from having their arrest televised. I’m not a fan of COPS, but I found the series to be fascinating and well worth the listen.

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