Thursday, June 17, 2004

'COPS'


We take a look at a few episodes of the series that stirred up controversy in Cincinnati

By Lauren Bishop
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Scene from COPS
COPS has taken viewers along with the police in more than 140 different cities since 1989.
(Photo courtesy of Fox)

BY THE NUMBERS
Here are some notable numbers in Cops' history:

Number of seasons of Cops to date: 16

Number of seasons of M*A*S*H: 12

Number of episodes of Cops that have aired to date: More than 550

Rank of Cops among 18- to 34-year-olds and 18- to 49-year-olds in its time period (8-8:30 p.m. and 8:30-9 p.m. Saturdays): 1

Percentage of country to which Cops is syndicated: 90

Number of Emmys for which Cops has been nominated: 4 Number of U.S. cities in which Cops has filmed: More than 140

Number of law enforcement agencies Cops has featured: About 200

Number of years that Inner Circle, who sing the Cops theme song "Bad Boys," has been around: 30

Number of Grammys the "Bad Boys" album won: 1 (Best Reggae Album, 1993)

Number of copies "Bad Boys" has sold worldwide: More than 7 million

Sources: Fox, Enquirer research

The second it became public that crews from the Fox TV show, Cops, wanted to film the Cincinnati police, questions started.

Is that show still on? What exactly happens on an episode? And how do I get "Bad Boys" out of my head?

To get an idea of what Cincinnati's Police Department might be up against, I decided to watch a handful of episodes. It wasn't that difficult: The show that's one of the forefathers of the reality TV genre - it's in its 16th season - is syndicated on multiple channels, including 19 and 45 (8 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday) and various times on Court TV and FX.

Each 30-minute episode follows the same format. It's usually broken up into three segments, which begin with an officer or two in a patrol car, talking about what it's like to be a cop. They get a call, respond to it and almost always get their man. Then they summarize what happened for the cameras.Here's what I took away after 3 hours of viewing: It's not so much the police who have to worry about how they'll come off; it's Greater Cincinnati's would-be criminals.

Read and judge for yourself - but remember, as the voice-over at the beginning of each episode says, all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Episode 1: Indianapolis, 1994

The cop, Sgt. Dennis Riley: "We have a lot of problems with these juveniles trying to purchase alcohol from the liquor stores around here."

The call: A liquor store has potentially sold alcohol to a minor. Riley finds the suspect walking down the street carrying something in a brown paper bag. When he asks the suspect, Tim, how old he is, Tim says 21 but gives his year of birth as 1961. He takes off running, a foot chase ensues and officers finally find Tim hiding in a bush. They determine he's actually 18, cuff him and reprimand the liquor store employee who sold him the beer without checking his ID.

The takeaway: "Don't run from the police anymore," Riley tells Tim. "You compound your problems when you run from the police."

Episode 2: Cleveland, 1993

The cop, Officer George Peters: "Probably about 90 percent of what we do out here is all domestic. The economic conditions, high crime and high drug rate put a lot of stress on families. To a lot of people, what we've become is kind of marriage counselors with guns."

The call: A domestic disturbance. The suspect, Robert, took his girlfriend's keys, rendering her unable to get into the apartment for the pain medication she needs for the arm Robert broke the week before. Officers find Robert on the street and chase him down, finally finding him hiding under a bed in the apartment. They cuff him and put him in a squad car, only to hear the girlfriend tell them she doesn't want to press charges. They release him after he says he'll leave town.

The takeaway: "If you don't want to prosecute," Peters tells the girlfriend, "you don't call the police. We're not like a maid service or a valet service for you."

Episode 3: Kansas City, Mo., 1998

The cop, Officer Jason Crump: "You never know what you're going to come across at 2:30 in the morning."

The call: A man is pushing a hot water heater down the street. Crump and Officer Tony White find the man, who's wearing a surgical mask, carrying tools and pushing the still-steaming heater along on a cart. The man repeatedly claims he saw other people dump the heater in an empty parking lot so he picked it up, hoping to sell it. But officers find a trail of water leading back to a nearby business and the bathroom where the heater was cut away from the wall. They take the man into custody.

The takeaway: "Like most burglars, he brought all the tools he needed with him, and he can improvise with anything else," Crump says.

Episode 4: Los Angeles, 1995

The cop, Officer John Mott: "Basically we educate people on manners. All our laws, all our rules are based on just plain manners."

The call: A possible car burglary involving a taxi. Mott and Officer Brian Barnett find the taxi and the shirtless suspect, who denies burglarizing the car. But the taxi's owner tells officers that witnesses saw the man they've just apprehended trying to break in. Officers search the suspect and find a large butcher knife in the jacket he was carrying. They also investigate the taxi and see that someone tried to remove the computer in the taxi's dash, but there's not even a stereo in the older-model car.

The takeaway: "We're not always dealing with the smartest criminals, you know?" Barnett says.

Episode 5: Spokane, Wash., 2004

The cop, Officer Brian Eckersley, on being a cop: "We get paid to show up to all that stuff that everybody else has to drive by. So it's definitely the best job I can think of."

The call: A loose Rottweiler. Eckersley finds the neighbor of the dog's owner kneeling on the dog's neck after he says the dog tried to bite him and his co-worker. An animal control officer arrives, lassos the Rottweiler and puts him in the back of his truck. Eckersley and the animal control officer pay a visit to the neighbor, and the animal control officer explains that she has 14 days to appeal if the dog is deemed to be dangerous.

The takeaway: "I would make sure the dog stays in the yard," Eckersley tells the owner of the Rottweiler.

Episode 6: Boston, 1996

The cop, Officer Danny Moroney, on being a cop: "There are a lot of single parents in this neighborhood, and we find a lot of times when they have disagreements, we're called in to play daddy for them."

The call: A mother says she's having problems with her 12-year-old. She tells Moroney and Officer Tommy Garneau her son won't listen to what she tells him and that he keeps telling her what to do. The officers try to talk to her son, Pat, a miserable, overweight kid who is watching TV with the volume turned up and refusing to answer most of their questions. Eventually, it appears he's mad because she won't let him play outside late at night. Officers tell Pat that as long as he's living under his mother's roof, he has to play by her rules. They leave without filing any charges.

The takeaway: "I think you should do what your mother says," Garneau tells Pat. "She's looking out for your best interests."

Episode 7: Virginia Beach, Va., 1998

The cop, Kevin Murphy, on being a cop: "My wife's also in the department. She works down in the radio room, in the communications division. We kind of have a running joke. She tells me where to go at work, and she tells me where to go at home."

The call: A possible assault. Murphy arrives at the apartment building and finds an intoxicated, barefoot, shirtless man bleeding around the mouth. After talking to the man, Mark, and his also intoxicated wife, he learns that Ed, the woman's ex-boyfriend and ex-boss, had showed up to the apartment and punched Mark. But when Murphy talks to the woman alone, she tells him she's still seeing Ed and that, "You can have two people at once." Murphy tells Mark about his wife's "outside interests," but Mark seems to be in denial, asking where his half-pack of cigarettes is.

The takeaway: "She's got the whole love triangle thing going on," Murphy says. "Hopefully she'll make a decision real soon about what she wants."

E-mail lbishop@enquirer.com




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