From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Demsoc2.
It does not necessarily reflect the views expressed in RationalWiki's Mission Statement, but we welcome discussion of a broad range of ideas.
Unless otherwise stated, this is original content, released under CC-BY-SA 3.0 or any later version. See RationalWiki:Copyrights.
Feel free to make comments on the talk page, which will probably be far more interesting, and might reflect a broader range of RationalWiki editors' thoughts.

Copaganda, also known as cop propaganda is when the Media and other social networks portray Law enforcement officers with the intent of increasing positive public opinion for the benefit of police departments and Law enforcement. Copaganda usually shows police officers helping members of the community, such as giving items to people in need, dancing, praying, and kneeling with protestors during the 2020 George Floyd Protests. Copaganda has been described as promoting an image of police officers that do not reflect reality, especially for working-class and Black communities, and reinforcing racist misconceptions. The term is commonly used on social media platforms and has gained more popularity as the George Floyd protests against police brutality continue.


Some examples of copaganda are the TV shows Law and Order: SVU, Chicago PD, NCIS: Los Angeles, Cops, Live PD, Hawaii Five-0, Magnum P.I, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Although Brooklyn Nine-Nine has acknowledged Police brutality and racial profiling by Law enforcement such as in the Season 4 episode "Moo Moo" when Terry Jeffords is stopped by a white police officer for no reason while looking for a toy his daughter threw out of a window and nearly arrests him. Terry is freed upon saying he is a police officer. Terry decides to meet with the officer and he apologizes for nearly arresting him, but lets it be clear that he only tried to for being Black. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has tried to be inclusive, with 2 Latina characters, a Latino character, a Gay Black character, and also a white woman character. The cast of the show also donated 100,000 dollars to the National Bail Fund Network. [1]


Copaganda has been seen as far back as the 1950s with the police show Dragnet, and the 60's with the Andy Griffth Show. The shows usually showed good and nice police officers taking care of civilians and taking down bad guys, who were mostly African Americans or Latinos. Brenden Gallagher for The Daily Dot cites "saving kittens" stories and "Christmas gift surprise" stunts as "age-old versions of what we’re seeing today" and continues by stating that "Copaganda is so old, you can find it in Nick at Night reruns. The media has been regurgitating police PR since the days of Andy Griffith, and now in the era of Brooklyn 99, it is just being used more often and more effectively." [2]

COPS and Live PD[edit]

The TV Show COPS and Live PD are the most famous examples of copaganda. Cops was created by John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, who wanted to get a network to carry the program. When the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike occurred and forced them to find other non-union programming, Fox Television (of course) picked up Cops, which had no union writers. [3]

When COPS premiered in 1989, it was advertised as showing what police officers really do on the job. But, of course, that was not true. Police departments looked through the footage and decided what THEY wanted to be shown on TV. Ever since the first episode of COPS, the police departments featured in it used the show to boost their public image. Some examples of this are in Broward County, Florida. Sheriff Nick Navaro, the Sheriff of Broward County was featured in the show in an attempt to get re-elected. Although he lost the next election, his popularity gave COPS a reason to make other police departments be on their show.

There was a relationship between the media and the police. They never showed any footage of what went right. Instead, they showed what went wrong because who the hell wants to watch some cops talk people out of things? COPS also helped to spread the message of "drugs bad" during the War on Drugs. Former Sheriff John Bunnell says that "There's no better way than to spread the message about drugs, and I think we did it quite successfully. And I think we would have not done it quite as successful if it wasn't for COPS." [4]

In 1991, a video emerged of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers. And rioting swept through the city like wildfire. 2 years later, COPS hit the streets of L.A. to boost the public image of the LAPD, where they wanted to film COPS for years, and they didn't get access until a newly-appointed police chief invited them to film. COPS moved from city to city, helping boost the public image of Police and Sheriff's departments all around the country.

In 2013, 4 Omaha PD officers were fired for using excessive force. The next year, the police chief invited COPS to film. In 2014, there were protests in Salinas, California after 4 officer-involved shootings. After a year, COPS started filming. For decades, COPS has let Police departments help clean up their public image. [5]

Live PD is a TV show on A&E and is basically the Walmart version of COPS. And it was created as a response to calls for increased police accountability. The format of Live PD allows police officers to come off and less polished than COPS. Although doing it live may be a way to increase transparency, it is just another way for police departments to shape their public image. In 2018, the most viewed show on DVR was Live PD. [6]


Copaganda helps increase the public image of police departments and other law enforcement agencies. It helps to polish the image of police officers as helpful members of the community who will never kill or beat up anybody for their race and who will always follow the law and not be corrupt. Shows such as COPS and Live PD create an illusion that there is no problem with the current policing system, and that all is good and well.