TV’s “COPS” is going to have to look somewhere else for bad boys.
For years, viewers of the gritty reality show have gotten a firsthand look at the lives of police officers at law-enforcement agencies around the country, including scores of segments shot in Pierce County.
But the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and Lakewood Police Department have each notified ‘COPS” producers that neither agency will appear before the show’s cameras this season.
“The show would no doubt highlight the professionalism of the LPD, but Lakewood is now focused on economic development and enhancing the quality of life for our residents and visitors,” communications director Jeff Brewster wrote Monday on the city’s Facebook page.
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At a Lakewood City Council meeting on May 20, “COPS” producer Zach Ragsdale told council members that the show wanted to return to Lakewood after a nine-year hiatus to document the progression of the city and highlight the professionalism of its police officers. Every show consists of three seven-minute stories, each from a different agency, he said.
However, council members expressed concern the show would depict the city in a negative light.
About 50 “COPS” segments were filmed in Lakewood until 2004, when the city contracted with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.
The city formed its own Police Department in 2004, Brewster said, but the show never filmed officers from the new agency.
“I still get comments from people that I meet around the state that have formed their impression of Lakewood being a place that needs aggressive police presence and is not particularly safe,” Councilmember Michael Brandstetter said at the meeting.
Ragsdale played a clip from 1992 that featured then-Officer Bret Farrar, who is now the Lakewood police chief. The clip shows Farrar and his partner responding to a call about a man living with his five children in unclean conditions. The two officers went to a supermarket to buy milk, eggs and diapers for the family.
“The opportunities are there to tell those stories,” Ragsdale said. “The car chases and the foot chases, those happen, but these stories are truly what officers do every day.”
Councilwoman Helen McGovern then asked, “Do we make money from you exploiting us to the world?”
Ragsdale said the show doesn’t pay the officers, but added that the show would help with recruiting future officers.
On the city’s Facebook page, one Lakewood resident wrote she enjoyed playing “guess the street” while watching old episodes of “COPS.”
Another agreed the city should focus on other issues, not “drugs, gangs and riffraff.”
The city “was not interested in turning back the clock to that particular chapter of the city’s history,” Brewster wrote.
Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, told the News Tribune their deputies also were not going to appear on “COPS” this year when the show moves from the Fox network to Spike TV. He told the newspaper close to 150 segments have been filmed with Pierce County deputies over the years.
Troyer said the department didn’t have the manpower to be filmed this season.
“It’s done nothing but good for us. It’s nothing against them,” Troyer said.
Troyer didn’t rule out the department being filmed in the future.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2517 or firstname.lastname@example.org