TUESDAY, March 12 — The long-running TV show “Cops” plans to film in Ingham County, offering what Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth labeled a “great opportunity” to showcase local law enforcement officers.
But the sensational nature of “Cops”— a show billed by producers as a “groundbreaking, raw and realistic series into the world of crime and punishment in America” — is drawing some hesitation from at least two Ingham County commissioners. Regardless, it seems hundreds of hours of filming is still set to continue this summer.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity,” Wriggelsworth explained. “Earlier this year, I don’t know why it came on my radar, but I saw all these shows about cops and jails. There were all these shows that tried to capture what we’re doing, and I’d put us up against any department in the country. This is a professional service.”
The Sheriff’s Office reached out to several reality TV shows in January, Wriggelsworth said. “Cops” — with more than 1,000 episodes on the air since it premiered on FOX in 1989 — was the only to respond. In 2013, the program moved from Fox to the cable network Spike. And early plans call for Langley Productions to film in July and August across Ingham County, officials said.
“With our car cameras and our body cameras, most of the stuff we do is on cameras nowadays,” Wriggelsworth added. “I really think it can be a good way to showcase what the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office is all about.”
Typical “Cops” episodes include various law enforcement agencies embedded camera crews, with no scripted dialogue and commentary only from the officers and the civilians they meet while on patrol. The long-running reality show is perhaps best known for its popular theme song — “Bad Boys” by the reggae group Inner Circle.
Many episodes tend to focus on the sensational elements of police work, with previous special-edition titles like “Naked Cops,” “Too Hot for TV,” “Bad Girls,” “Foolish Criminals” and “Morons on Parade.” “Cops” last came to Lansing in the middle of its 20th season in 2008. That episode is titled “Stupid Behavior #1 Special Edition.”
Bryan Crenshaw, who chairs the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, is “still processing” the idea after Wriggelsworth told commissioners about the plan last month. Wriggelsworth will maintain some discretion on the final broadcast, but Crenshaw was still hesitant to endorse the concept given the show’s sensational history.
“It was a bit more focused on the sensational elements rather than community policing,” Crenshaw added. “I still need to get my arms around this. It can be a good (public relations) move, but if we invest our time, what happens if we don’t want to show anything at all? That could be time wasted out there doing this thing.”
Added Commissioner Carol Koenig: “My immediate reaction would be not to do this.”
Koenig said that as an attorney, she often cringes over the sensational aspects of the TV program. She likes the idea of Wrigglesworth’s having some say over what portions are included in the final segment, but she ultimately doubts whether that discretion will carry much weight. She wants to review the production contract to be sure.
“I’m just not sure about that part,” Koenig added. “Otherwise, how would this stuff ever end up on the show?”
Wriggelsworth declined to comment further on the topic. Commissioners Derrell Slaughter, Randy Schaefer and Mark Grebner said they were comfortable with the idea as long as Wriggelsworth retained final approval on the footage. The overarching concept: “Cops” could help shine some positive light on local first responders.
“I know the sheriff is comfortable with this. I’ve seen the show. If people can see this and realize what these officers go through every day, they might be more sympathetic toward their plight,” Schaefer explained. “In today’s environment, public safety and police officers could use all the positive attention they can get out there.”
Nearly a decade ago, “Stupid Behavior #1 Special Edition” featured a Lansing Police Department officer questioning a middle-aged couple parked after dusk at a downtown park. An unidentified officer questioned a nameless woman about why she was spending time with a man other than her husband so late at night.
“She’s got some explaining to do when she gets home,” the LPD officer narrated for the production crew.
The Sheriff’s Office will not collect or pay any money for the show, Wriggelsworth noted. Any county resources used to create the program will also likely be negligible; The cameras crews typically just follow deputies during previously scheduled shifts.
As a result, the county board will likely have no discretion over whether the production continues.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Cheltenham said Wriggelsworth maintains “discretion to seek such an appearance” and noted it’s “not unprecedented for a local agency to appear on the show.”
Calls to Langley Productions were not returned. A firm production timeline has not been formally established. Wriggelsworth stressed the preliminary nature of the upcoming plans, but he emphasized that he was “about 90 percent sure this is going to happen.” Wriggelsworth is running for reelection in 2020.
“It’s the sheriff. The sheriff is allowed to waste his own time if he wants to waste his own time,” Grebner added. “That’s why he’s elected to be the sheriff. He’s allowed to dress in nice clothes and carry a gun and talk to people about public safety. If the sheriff wants to do this, I guess I’ll go along with it for the fun of it. Why not?”
Editor's Note: This story was corrected to reflect the network in which "Cops" is now on the air.