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to a court case against him
Paul Terrusa, plaintiff and appellant,
Los Angeles county civil service commission etc., defendant and respondent.
My 9/08 exclusive with Deputy Paul Terrusa of Los Angeles, CA episodes 219, 221, 222, 225, 228 & 229
Were you fresh out of the academy when the show started?
No, I did 18 months in the county jail doing a variety of jobs.
How was Sean Collinsworth to you? In some episodes it seems like he had a big head.
He is a great cop and actually too smart. He pissed off a lot of supervisors and deputies because he was too smart for them. I just had to deal with him and had no other choice.
In #219 you are shown being evaluated for the first and only time in the history of the show and it wasn't entirely favorable. How was that experience?
It was a typical eval. No one knows anything in the beginning and your first few evals show that you don't. Everyone knows what it's like at the beginning.
He says your score is 2.8, what was that out of?
I don't remember what the scoring curve was.
Episode #219 ends with Dedicated to the memory of Deputy Jack Murphy. Was he killed in the line of duty?
I don't remember who he was. He must have been a deputy who got killed. I guess my mind was swimming back then.
In #221 that cracked me up when someone said to Sean they were making fun of his balls when you were at baton training. I was surprised they let that on the air. Was that because of the bike outfit he had?
Yes. Sean marched to a different drummer.
In #222 the Halloween footage is used often on the early video tapes. Is that your most well-known scene from the show?
I never really took a poll to see where any episodes rated. I was just along for the ride.
Were you at the call right after with the guy who tried to kill himself? I still can't believe Sean could eat an apple while talking to him. I can barely look at the guy since he's such a bloody mess.
Yes I was there. The key to being a survivor in law enforcement is being able to keep everyone's problems out of your life, compassion has nothing to do with it. I don't know them, I don't want to know them. When the call is over I'm done, out, finished. Too bad, but too bad for them, not for me to ruin my mental state with. I had a college teacher who let it get to him and it ran him out of a job. I have lots more on that subject, but I'm not going to type a book here, sorry.
In #225 they showed a public meeting where you apologized. What was going on?
I don't know what you are referring to. I don't remember.
In #228 there is a crazy call with people throwing chairs off a balcony. Were they arrested for lying about being kidnapped or breaking things?
I think they promised the hotel to pay for the damage. I don't remember arresting them, but may have.
In #229 you have to write a report on a fire. Why did the police do that?
We write a report on all fires and the fire department does their own thing.
Did it turn out to be an arson fire?
Yes, a stack of books were piled up and lit on fire, but I don't know the outcome - insurance or pissed off employee maybe.
I like in the next scene the guy with the drug bags says he found them, it seems like a common excuse, but why would anything think police would believe it?
People say anything and everything when they try not to go to jail.
Then he's shown with a bag taped to him! What was his excuse then?
He had nothing to say, he was caught.
So 10 episodes later we see you good a great evaluation. Was this vindication?
I was on training and you start out not knowing a thing, you learn and hopefully get off training. Some get rolled up and have to try it again a year later or get fired. I was fortunate to have a good teacher who taught me well enough to get off training. Many years later I had to both roll a guy up and get many trainees on their way to successful carriers.
Robin's comment about his 30th high school reunion and tributes to the murdered students was so compelling. Was this surprising to you then or was it commonplace for cops to see?
It depends where you work. I saw a few murdered kids, more then some deputies, but not as many as others. We had a 12 year old kid killed and dumped in a trash can because the other kids at the foster house didn't like him, nice huh? That case was a big joke with a lot of us because of the circumstances. I can't go further, but it's how you deal with tragedy. The general public would never understand and vilify us if they knew what was going on and said at murder scenes. It's a survival situation for us. For the record I will say that I never made a joke about anyone's misfortune or loss.
Is it true that Cops and other shows are no longer allowed to film with police in LA because of a change of laws?
I have no idea.
Why do all drunk people when questioned by police say they only had 2 beers?
Beats me. Maybe because they hear everyone say I only had two beers.
Did people in town recognize you after the show aired?
I was on a cruise and got recognized by a couple from Texas. It was only a few times here and there. A few times I was asked if I was that guy on cops, but not so much told that I was the guy from cops.
Were you supposed to get paid or do you think you should've gotten paid to appear on TV?
I think that once they found out that the show was a goldmine it would have been nice to kick down a little something in a xmas card.
Do you think the show helped the LAPD back then?
I think it helped, sure. It showed the public that the people we deal with are the aholes not just the cops.
Are you still on the force?
No, I left in 2000. I collect a 20 year minimum retirement for the rest of my life and work in the high end executive protection part of the security business with celebs, work place violence and Hollywood type parties. It's all plan cloths or suit stuff, no uniform work.
Are you glad you were on the show?
The show was a totally new experience. I was embarrassed for a long time when I saw other deputies at training or other events. Lots of them said I was cool for dealing with Sean. They saw what a hard time I had and felt like I earned my way in. I guess I was just over thinking what people thought of me.
Did you think the show would last back then?
I really didn't think of its longevity as I was too busy trying to get off training.
Do you still watch it today?
I do watch mostly to see if the bad guys get messed up in crashes or tased. Lost kids, drunks or domestic violence bores me.
TV Guide 20th season interview with John Langley 9/12/07
Did you ever expect the show to last this long?
I had no idea Cops would continue for 20 years, although I had total faith that it was an interesting show with many layers of entertainment and information.
How has it continued to spark audiences' interest?
It's still on the air, in my opinion, because it offers the unpredictability of human behavior in extreme circumstances. It's like an existential variety show, with authentic decor, set against the backdrop of street crime. No scripts, no actors, no host, no narrator. As "real" as you can get! Existential TV!
Have you had to change how the show is shot over the course of the
Over the years, we've had to film much more for much less. The good news is, crime is trending downward; the bad news is, crime is democratic and can affect anyone at any time.
Have your camera people ever inadvertently gotten involved in
Our rule to cameramen is to stay out of it! If you become the story, there is no story. But over the years some guys have jumped into a situation when asked by the officers in charge. For example, a soundman who was trained in CPR assisted an officer in Portland because he knew CPR better than the officer. (Ep #207)
Has anyone been injured?
We've had a few broken bones, bloody noses and so forth from chasing after officers who are chasing after suspects, at which time cameramen have been "clotheslined" in the dark. One cameraman was hit with a two-by-four on a party-out-of-control call. Another crew was "T-boned" during a high-speed pursuit, etc (Ep #508). No major injuries, knock on wood.
Where have you shot the show?
As a road show, we've been all over the U.S. as well as overseas to Russia, South America, England and Hong Kong. There is no single place better than all others. It depends on the "luck of the draw" and whatever happens when you happen to be there. Having said that, bigger cities obviously mean more crime, which translates into more segments.
Do you still hear from the various officers you've worked with?
We stay in touch with many officers we've worked with over the years. Many have been promoted up through the ranks, like Bill Young of Las Vegas (former sheriff), or have moved into other high-visibility jobs, like John Bunnell (who hosted TV shows and appeared in movies).
How often have you actually been at shoots - any of the big, most
In earlier days I was personally present for many of the classic moments from Cops (like the driverless car spinning in circles Ep #311). Nowadays, Jimmy Langley, our field producer, is on location.
How will you keep the show fresh?
As a road show, we keep moving - without any moss growing under our feet! Meanwhile, the variations on human behavior are endless, so that even if you are on a routine domestic call, you can [witness] surprises and twists you would never have expected. Cops tries to keep the viewer "in the moment," since we are a ride-along show, which means you will discover reality - or at least a slice of it - by peeking through a window into a world you seldom see. And you get to do it from the comfort of your couch!
Like the 10 O’Clock News, Cops Endures
By Dave Itzkoff | 9/9/07
Two years ago, when the television producer John Langley bought the $3.5
million, seven-bedroom house here that is now his family’s weekend retreat,
with its wine cellar, vineyards and canyon vistas that once stood in for
Shangri-La in “Lost Horizon,” he wasn’t entirely sure what inspired him to
purchase it. Except that he had a grandfather - a wildcatter, con man and
scofflaw by trade - who, according to legend, once owned property in Ojai, and
Mr. Langley liked the idea of returning. “I thought it was appropriate,” he said in a recent conversation. “I
thought it was justice.”
Justice is a subject that Mr. Langley knows something about, having made his reputation and his fortune as a creator of the reality series “Cops.” For almost two decades, “Cops” has dutifully documented police officers as they contend with backyard perp chases, domestic disputes and the occasional moving violation committed by a woman in a bikini. The longevity of “Cops,” on network television and in syndication, has given Mr. Langley the means to own homes here and in Manhattan Beach, Calif.; to buy restaurants in both cities; and to create his own line of Argentine wines. He has also been enriched in other ways: he has seen his attitudes on crime and punishment in America altered dramatically by the experience of “Cops.” He has also learned to withstand the criticism directed at the show, and to see “Cops” as a different proposition from a generation’s worth of tabloid fare that it inspired. “You can be entertained by it, you can be disgusted, but it is what happened,” Langley said. “It wasn’t staged, it wasn’t scripted. I didn’t put anyone on an island and tell them what to do.”
Mr. Langley, 64, had little interest in law enforcement at the start of his career. Born in Oklahoma City and raised in Manhattan Beach, he had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in comparative literature and had nearly completed a Ph.D. thesis at the University of California, Irvine, on the philosophy of aesthetics when he decided to pursue work in Hollywood. He wrote screenplays; did research for Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek”; and worked as a publicist on movies. But it was not until 1983, when he and his former producing partner Malcolm Barbour made “Cocaine Blues,” an independent documentary on the drug trade and the various tolls it had taken on the country, that Mr. Langley was able to gain any traction in the film industry. (Mr. Barbour retired from producing in 1994.) “I think I made a grand total of $6,000 that year,” Langley said. “I basically starved doing it, with three children to feed.”
He continued to work where he could - as a second-unit director on the Tom Hanks comedy “Volunteers,” as the director of a Dolph Lundgren fitness video - until “Cocaine Blues” caught the attention of Geraldo Rivera, who approached Mr. Langley and Mr. Barbour to produce a series of television documentaries called “American Vice: The Doping of a Nation.” Broadcast in syndication, “American Vice” consisted of cinéma vérité ride-alongs with police officers investigating drug-related crimes, and featured three live drug busts.
A few years later, the new Fox network was scrambling for programming to distinguish itself from its entrenched competitors, and it turned to Mr. Langley and Mr. Barbour. In 1988 the two played their pilot episode of “Cops” for a roomful of skeptical executives, including Barry Diller, then the chairman of Fox, and a taciturn man Langley assumed was an accountant. At the end of the presentation, Langley recalled, the mystery figure, named Rupert Murdoch, declared, “Order four of ’em.” Those four episodes of “Cops” turned into nearly 700, and some of the show’s earliest advocates say they are not surprised by its endurance. “You don’t look at the 10 o’clock news going, ‘Is this going to come off the air in four years?’ ” said Stephen Chao, a former development executive at Fox’s television stations group. “It’s never obsolete. It doesn’t wear out the way a Dick Wolf franchise wears out.”
Mr. Chao, who ordered the show’s pilot and remains a frequent guest at Mr. Langley’s breakfast table, added that though Mr. Langley “likes to project a really easygoing manner and a simple-folk, Okie thing, he had this incredible clarity about what was right and this agenda for the show.” In nearly 20 years, the formula for “Cops” has not changed at all, from its abundant affection for hand-held cameras to its lack of voice-over narration and music (save for its familiar theme song, “Bad Boys,” by the reggae band Inner Circle). What has changed is Mr. Langley’s attitude toward the people depicted on the show, those who uphold the law, as well as those who break it. “When I first went into this business, I thought, well, if they commit a crime, they should do the time,” Langley said.
But having seen America’s prison population soar to more than 2.2 million, and with widespread prison overcrowding in California, Langley says he now believes the nation should be reconsidering which crimes should be punishable by imprisonment. “A lot of our attention is dedicated to arresting people who have drug problems,” he said, “when the real solution may be to rehabilitate them.” Too often, he added, “we’re asking police officers to solve social issues, and that’s not their job. They want to arrest people that really deserve to be arrested,” he continued, those “who are a threat to society itself.”
With the controlled substance of choice shifting from cocaine to crack to methamphetamine, Mr. Langley acknowledged that his show has been an inadvertent beneficiary of America’s drug problem. “What makes ‘Cops’ run?” he asked. “Drugs, drugs, drugs. What’s wrong with society? Drugs, drugs, drugs.” But he vigorously denied that “Cops” was exploiting the criminal suspects who appear on the show, pointing out that they all sign release forms. “When they hear that we’re not a news camera, that we’re ‘Cops,’ ” Mr. Langley said, “they generally exclaim, ‘Oh, that’s great! When will I be on?’ ”
And though the early success of “Cops” helped paved the way for more manipulative reality series, Mr. Langley argued that his show’s social conscience distinguished it from its willfully trashy imitators. “People that say it’s a guilty pleasure drive me crazy,” he said. “Is that because they’re experiencing schadenfreude, or is it because they feel guilty, because they see that there are things in society that are perhaps not right, that need attention, that need fixing?” Nick Navarro, the former sheriff of Broward County, Fla., who allowed his officers to be documented in both “American Vice” and “Cops,” said “Cops” had made great strides in combating the guns-a-blazing stereotypes of law enforcement officers put forth by popular culture and in making police departments more transparent around the country. “We don’t go around shooting people left and right, and then blowing the smoke off the barrel of the gun,” said Mr. Navarro, who now owns a private security company in Fort Lauderdale. “Who pays our salaries as police officers? The public. Who has a right to know everything that we’re doing, whether we’re doing it right or we’re doing it wrong? The public.”
Though Langley has tried to resist the temptation to create another reality show set in the world of law enforcement, his newest series is a sequel of sorts to “Cops”: titled “Inside American Jail” in the incarnation that has appeared on Court TV since August, and “Jail” in the version that made its debut on My Network TV on Sept. 4, the show tracks perpetrators after they are arrested and is produced by Mr. Langley’s 33-year-old son, Morgan. Despite having seen his father pioneer an untested television format and in so doing help define the character of a struggling broadcast network, Morgan Langley has said he does not expect “Jail” to achieve the same degree of success. “That would be miraculous,” he said. “If we could even help out a little bit, that would be nice.”
John Langley: The Man Behind "Cops"
By Erika Waddell, Court TV for the 600th episode 5/5/05
Q: Why are people so fascinated with this show?
A: Maybe because it's still unpredictable and immediate and deals with raw reality.
Q: I understand that you can only show the faces of people who have signed a release form. What percentage of people sign it?
A: I'd say 90%.
Q: And is that up or down since the show started?
A: It's more. It may even be 95% now. And I think it's because "Cops" has become part of pop culture, almost everybody knows the show even if they haven't watched it. They've heard of it or they know what it deals with, or they know the theme song. Over the years it's become almost de rigueur to be on "Cops" if you happen to get caught.
Q: I feel like people would want to do it now, it's sort of cool.
A: Yeah, they're very receptive. I mean, we have people say "Get that damn news camera out of my face," and my crew will say, "We're not with the news, we're with 'Cops'," and they'll go "Cool!"
Q: How do you go about getting people to sign the release? If someone is hesitant, how do you try to talk him or her into it?
A: Our guys say, "Look, why shouldn't you be on? This really happened, nobody's saying it didn't happen, this shows what happened. If you claim that the cops have mistreated you or aren't being fair to you or whatever the case may be, you have the proof of it. It's right on tape. Why wouldn't you want it to be shown?" I mean, they just use psychology along these lines, or try to convince them that there's nothing to lose.
Q: Does it happen at the scene, or do you wait a while?
A: It usually happens at the scene because they're going from call to call. It's very difficult to track people down afterwards.
Q: What if someone's intoxicated?
A: [With] intoxicated people, we go back to get releases. So that it's ironclad.
Q: Are people ever paid to sign the release?
A: No, we don't pay people for a release, and the reason is we're a reality show, we're a documentary. It's about what's real. These aren't actors. We're not going to pay them to be who they are.
Q: Do people ever try to get out of the releases?
A: Occasionally. But signing a release is a contract, and contract law is pretty specific. Once you sign it, that's it, baby. You're an adult. You know what you're signing. It's just like signing a purchase for a car.
Q: A disclaimer says that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. What percentage of people are actually convicted?
A: I have no idea, because we don't follow up on every call. It's more of a slice-of-life show. It shows you what's happening when it's happening. It's not a traditional documentary in that it follows the case all the way through the courts... It doesn't go into the epilogues.
Q: How and why do you choose locations?
A: Well, I try to make "Cops" a road show. I like to travel it across the country because I think it keeps it fresh and it also gives a portrait of law enforcement all over America. So rather than just see one eye or an eye and an eyebrow, I like to show the ears, the nose, the chin, the entire portrait.
Q: Do you go back to cities that have given you good stuff before?
A: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes we repeat cities, but never one year after another. I usually wait and give them a break for a while. We're filming our 18th season now. The luxury of longevity is that we can keep going back to places where we've been before and still travel the show and still incorporate new locations.
Q: How long do you tape in each location?
A: Usually about eight weeks.
Q: How much footage do you generally have before something worthy of being on television happens?
A: I may have eight to ten crews out at any given time, and I try to get a show a week. I don't always succeed. Sometimes I'll get half a show and the next week I'll get a show and a half. But it kind of averages out to that, so we're on the road for 30 to 40 weeks a year.
Q: Do you take all the officers in an area, or do you choose certain
A: It's like a casting call in some respects. We like to be with the most proactive cops because that's where the most stuff happens. We like to be in the busier areas. Otherwise you can never do a show like this because you'll sit around. There's a lot of paperwork involved in this work and a lot of downtime, and that doesn't make for good television. So we try to find the most proactive, telegenic cops and the most active areas just as a matter of practicality.
Q: Are officers willing to do this?
A: Pretty much, yeah. We have a really good reception, obviously, because it's a show about police officers, so it's kind of their show in that sense. They're the protagonists.
Q: Do your crews ever help apprehend criminals?
A: No, that's not our job. We're there to capture what's going on, not to create what's going on. The minute we become the story, there is no story. So that's my mandate to all of our crews: "If you're in the middle of a riot and they start focusing on you, turn off the cameras. Get out of there." We're under the supervision and direction of law enforcement when we're filming with them. They're the cops, not us.
Q: When you watch a chase and the cameraman almost has him, you're kind of rooting for him to do it.
A: What's happening is the cameraman is trying to get the shot, he's not trying get the suspect. Sometimes the cameraman may be in better shape than the cop and will outrun the cop, but he has to fall back and let the cop catch up.
Q: Is "Cops" footage ever used as evidence in a trial?
Q: How often does that happen?
A: Not as often as you would think, but it does occasionally happen.
Q: So do you provide attorneys with footage that was not broadcast?
A: No, never. In fact, we just recycle footage that isn't broadcast, because I don't have the wherewithal to keep thousands upon thousands of tapes that aren't being used.
Q: Has a police officer ever been fired or sued because of his behavior on
Q: Has "Cops" ever caught a celebrity doing something illegal?
A: Oh yeah. Many years ago an Academy Award-winning composer was on one of our shows, Jack Nitzsche. I think he was waving a gun around and might've been drunk. It was in Hollywood.
Q: Does the show ever revisit arrestees from past episodes?
A: No, but we've had arrestees from prior episodes show up in a different city and appear again. Not intentionally, it just shows recidivism is a reality.
Q: What is your favorite segment ever?
A: You know, I'm sometimes asked this and I genuinely and honestly do not have a favorite segment, because there have been so many, and they're like flavors of ice cream. One day you might like Neapolitan, another day you might like chocolate, vanilla or rocky road...
Q: Do you have a favorite genre, like Bad Girls or Shots Fired, or Best Chases?
A: Well, to be honest with you, those are all promotional tools to get people to watch the show. To me, the show is best when it's balanced, when it maybe has an action piece, and then a lyrical piece, and then a think piece. Because it's a three-segment structure. If you do all chases, my theory is you'll get tired of the chases after a while. So you don't want to do just chase, chase, chase. It's better to have a chase and then something that's a little slower, more humorous, more lyrical, more whatever, and then it's nice to shift gears again and have something that provokes thought about our laws or the nature of law enforcement or the nature of human behavior or crime or whatever the case may be. It's just more interesting to me that way.
Q: Do you have a favorite cop?
A: No. I've seen a lot of really great cops over the years, really proactive and courageous, just good guys. I mean, not all cops are good guys, but the good news is that most are. I came to appreciate police officers over the years, because I wasn't a big fan when I was a kid. I'm a kid of the 60s, so I never thought I would do a show called "Cops." It just turns out that I like the documentary form and I like so-called reality television. To me there's nothing more interesting then what's real, what's true.
Q: You're pretty much the founder of reality TV.
A: Oh, I don't know if I can be blamed for that, but I was probably one of the early guys in that genre.
Q: Tell me about the moment when you realized "Cops" was such a big part of the country's pop culture.
A: When my kid came to me one day and said, "Oh, my friend was on Cops last night!" (laughs). And probably when I started seeing all the spoofs. Saturday Night Live and Mad TV have done things on us, The Simpsons has done things on us. And There's Something About Mary. Cops was in that.
Q: What do you think about Reno 911?
A: Oh, I love it! It's flattering and amusing.
Q: Do you think there's a limit to how much you can say about law enforcement?
A: You know, I don't think it's just about law enforcement I think it's about human behavior, and it's about man in extremes, or woman in extremes. It's about a context that involves a lot of different issues. It's not only law enforcement, it's crime and punishment, it's good and bad. All the fundamental themes of literature and film are involved in that arena.
Q: Now here's an urban myth: When police officers see people with either a big, baggy shirt or no shirt at all, does that signal to them that they are using drugs?
A: (Laughs) No. Not at all. Because crimes and misdemeanors come in all shapes and forms. You can have a crew cut, wear glasses, be dressed in a suit and be a murderer or a criminal or a crook or a con man, or you could have tats all over your arms and wear baggy pants and be an upstanding citizen. But having said that, if you see a bunch of kids riding around in a car and they look like gangbangers, chances are they are gangbangers, you know what I mean? And if it's a new car, chances are they might've stolen it. There are just fundamental experiential issues that aren't so-called "profiling," which is a big controversy. There is natural profiling that takes part of life, and it's based on experience. If you see a guy with tattoos all over his arms and wild, dilated pupils and he gets on an elevator with you, are you going to feel comfortable, as opposed to a guy that gets on that has a Brooks Brothers suit and a briefcase? I mean, how are you going to feel at midnight on an isolated elevator? Well, cops use that same technique based on their experience to look at likely suspects.
Q: Are you going to use that theme song forever?
A: Oh yeah, it's too much a part of [pop culture]. It's too associated with "Cops," and I wouldn't change it. I was fortunate to find it, and I'm happy I put it in.
Q: Do you have anything that you'd like to say about the show?
A: I would say that "Cops" is an existential variety show with authentic décor. How's that? Designed to instruct and entertain, in equal parts.
My 2004 exclusive with Deputy Ruben Barela of Albuquerque, NM in episodes 827-29/31, 833-5, 1228, 1234 & TH2.
Q: How long did it take for the episodes to go from being filmed to TV?
A: When they film the episodes, they stay in the filming area (in my case, Albuquerque) for several weeks or months. After editing and all the film magic they do to the episodes, it ended up taking several months before the final episode aired.
Q: Did the crew say how they came to choose Albuquerque?
A: Wherever they can get permission and have a likelihood of good television material. Albuquerque is a growing city with big city problems. It's also fair weathered and all around nice place to be to film in.
Q: How many members are there in the cops crew?
A: A cameraman and a soundman ride along. Back at the studio there are other guys who edit, do the sound, etc. In my case, Bertram Van Munster, the producer, acted as camera man. I became good friends with him because we spent so much time together.
Q: Did they ever get in the way or slow you down?
A: Not really, they just stand back and film whatever happens. They don't ever try to get in the way. Other units would have to transport suspects because the crew would be in my car, and you couldn't try to stop a bad guy with your car (such as do a pit maneuver) with them sitting in the car for their safety.
Q: Did the crew ever assist in an arrest when there was no backup?
A: No, they are advised not to for their safety as well as for the officers. I'm sure though if something REALLY bad happened, they would do something, but for the most part, no.
Q: Were you a fan of the show before they filmed in your town?
A: I didn't really watch the show before they filmed me.
Q: Did the guys at work talk about the episodes?
A: Not really, but they filmed lots of episodes with me, so my co-workers joked about it and called it the "Ruben Barela Show". When you are on, you tend to get lots of fan mail as I did.
Q: When you got fan mail what were the most common questions asked?
A: It usually consisted of girls saying I was cute on TV, but most of it said I did a good job as a cop. I never responded to any of it, but it was a nice gesture though I'm no longer a deputy.
Q: What has happened with your career since
you've been on Cops?
A: I work in the casino industry now.
Q: Do the criminals have to sign waivers to allow their likenesses on film?
A: They all must, otherwise they have their faces blurred. Most people sign the waivers, just to say they were on Cops.
Q: How long were they in town filming?
A: Several months. They stay in hotels or rent out a town home to live in for the duration and ride along with whomever they are allowed to go along with.
Q: Was there anything they filmed that they didn’t use because it was too
graphic or personal?
A: They don't use most of their material. Many things I thought they filmed that were boring, compared to other things we did, that they ended up using after all. In one instance, there was a bad traffic accident and the kid driving died and the city said it wasn't a good idea to show it for legal reasons and it never aired.
Q: Are officers allowed to not appear on film if they don’t want to?
A: Nope, they film whomever is chosen as it's the city/county governings' choice.
Q: How do they decide whom to ride with?
A: Whomever is in charge (i.e. the chief, mayor, or whomever makes the rules) decides. They base their choice on many things: they choose someone they know is safe, dependable, and represents the department positively.
Q: If an officer does something they aren’t proud off are they able to tell
the crew to turn the cameras off or not use the footage?
A: No, they use embarrassing footage too. The officers should know better than to do something wrong, especially on film. But if they mess up, they mess up!
Q: Are there any plans for Cops to come back to Albuquerque?
A: The mayor banned the show because the city said it showed a negative image of Albuquerque. Maybe if they ever lift the ban, they will come back.
A 1999 Court TV web chat with John Langley. They posted it on their site as is - full of bad grammar, spelling mistakes and more then removed it. I cleaned it up and made it readable.
How did your being a producer lead you to doing the Cops shows?
Years ago I did a show called "Cocaine Blues," all about he cocaine epidemic in America. That experience led to Cops via the adrenaline rush I felt in accompanying police officers during drug busts.
How did you pick where you shoot?
Generally speaking, we are an "invitational show" which means that we go where we are wanted. Nowadays, we are invited regularly to various cities across America...and we go.
When did Cops first start filming and how was the reaction to such a show?
We began filming in 1988, around July of that year. The initial reaction from critics and the public alike was one of amazement. We tried to portray reality in all its raw and real environment, in this instance being the crime and punishment arena. For that reason, I suppose, it seemed fresh and interesting.
What is your reaction to the latest court rulings of filming police in action?
The recent reaction to the latest court rulings is this: it barely affects us. Specifically, the ruling concerned media accompanying police officers during search warrants. We rarely do that anymore. Moreover, we obtain releases from anyone involved.
Which city was the most co-operative with the Cops crew?
Initially, the department most cooperative was the Broward County Sheriff's Department in Florida, where we began the show.
What's your favorite Cops episode?
One of my favorites is the episode from Philadelphia in which police encountered a naked burglar and wrestled with him during his arrest.
Has anybody been killed or seriously injured on Cops?
Alas, we have had several injuries. One crew was smashed during a high-speed auto chase, wherein one cop car crashed into another. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
Will you ever film in Canada?
Cops does appear in Canada at present, and I've flirted with the notion of filming the Mounties, but so far I've not got around to it. I understand there is a copycat show filmed in Vancouver.
Do you ever have a follow up about some of the cases?
No, that's not our mandate, so to speak. But we have had suspects appear in more than one episode, from different cities. How's that for reality being stranger than fiction!
Is Cops meant to be a neutral documentary or are you trying to show a specific perspective?
From a documentary standpoint, I'm trying to show reality as raw as possible. In that we film with police officers, we obviously share their perspective, which makes them, in a sense, our heroes.
With the use of dash-mounted cameras is the show not as shocking?
We don't use dash-mounted cameras, so Cops continues to amaze and entertain and inform me as it always has. I think that's its strength.
Do you think that that Cops has changed the attitude of the public towards the police?
Definitely. Most people in the public arena looked upon cops as a nuisance. They were the guys who gave you speeding tickets, etc. Nowadays, I think shows like Cops demonstrate that cops, police officers, are real human beings, just like all of us, and are subject to pain, frustration, heroism, etc.
Do you use videotapes from peoples own camcorders?
Cops only uses its own crews, we don't get footage from outside sources.
Would you say that such programs as Cops are high-quality television?
I suppose it depends upon your definition of high quality television. Personally, I'm very proud of the program and think its contributes to a greater understanding of our society. It doesn't preach, but you can get the message if you watch it carefully. As far as the other reality programs, I'm all for them in the sense that it's a big landscape out there in television land, and the more the merrier. When I get overly copied, I'm both flattered and annoyed at times. But, as they say, TV is the sincerest form of imitation.
How will the Supreme Court ruling on no ride alongs affect the show?
The Supreme Court did not rule that there would be no ride alongs. That's a misperception of their ruling. They merely affirmed the right of anyone to sue the police if the media accompany them during search warrants and invasion of privacy. It's really an issue of the 1st and 4th Amendments in conflict to a certain specific degree.
What does an "executive producer" do?
An executive producer has the privilege of doing everything or nothing - take your pick. Generally, it's the guy (or gal) who started a show and is ultimately responsible for it.
Have you ever thought of filming a Military Police Cops?
At one time or another, I've considered almost everything to do with cops, police, or crime subjects. As far as international stuff, we have filmed in England, Russia, South America, Hong Kong, etc. But Americans tend to not like foreign subjects, for some strange reason.
I like the show Cops but really LIKE the song. Where did you find it?
I found the song in Miami when we were filming the pilot. It seemed like the ideal song for this series, and I wanted to counterpoint the subject with a reggae song. As far as I knew, no one had used reggae for a theme song.
Is the producer of the show ever involved with the law? Do you have consultants on your staff?
I've never been a police officer, although I am a reservist with a local California P.D. We don't really have any consultants, other than the departments we film with on a regular basis.
I think the television show Cops make the police force look like thugs and these shows should be taken off TV.
Beauty (and reality) is in the eye of the beholder. We don't try to tell you what to think. All we do is attempt to show what is real in a very specific context, meaning crime and punishment arenas in which police live, breathe and sometimes die.
How do you feel about the way some news programs like 20/20 say that the camera forces cops to make decisions just so they don't look bad in front of the camera?
I guess you could say the same thing for 20/20. How much do they affect their subject matter? It's a question for philosophers and scientists.
Will we ever see Cops the movie?
Cops the movie will be made sooner or later. I've had ongoing discussions with Fox about just that subject.
© 2001-09 Thrawn for Cops on Fox