A new series titled ‘Copwatch America’ is headed to the BET network.
The 10-episode show is a docuseries that will highlight copwatch groups in major U.S. cities. For those who don’t know, copwatch groups are citizen organizations that monitor the conduct of law enforcement officers in order to combat police brutality and abuses of power.
“BET Networks is committed to bringing important stories of systemic issues of race and justice across our nation to light. We are taking this on in a way no other brand and network can, through platforms like our powerful ‘Finding Justice’ franchise and our upcoming original docuseries ‘Copwatch America,'” Marisa Levy, BET’s vice president of unscripted programming, said in a Tuesday public statement.
‘Copwatch America’ executive producer Max Welch said in his own public statement that the show “will be shocking, eye-opening, exhilarating, explosive, must-watch action getting to the core of one of the biggest issues facing America, its police and the communities they serve today. Prepare for plenty of confrontation, powerful personal stories, injustices and debate, as we capture the groundbreaking stories of those on both sides of the story in search of truth.”
The more telling statement about the upcoming series comes from Tom Forman, BET’s CEO of critical content.
“I’ve spent my career telling law enforcement stories, but never from this perspective. Not even close. Hats off to BET for allowing us to tackle this subject matter in a way that speaks to their audience and this time,” said Forman.
The fact that Forman points out that this is a show built for “this time” says “Copwatch America” is likely a series looking to jump on the growing trend of distrust in America’s police. The fact that Levy’s statement bring up “race” right away adds to this notion.
Law enforcement officers have been highlighted in unscripted programming for decades now. There’s the long-running “COPS,” the popular A&E series “Live PD,” and other popular shows like “The First 48.” This new series, however, is going against the grain in that it is a show that is really dependent on cops misbehaving.
There are no doubt abuses of power and every citizen has the right — and sometimes obligation — to question power, but we have seen some anti-cop protests get downright violent in recent years. Throwing television cameras into the mix with groups that are already looking to impede the jobs of officers could be a volatile situation. What’s worse is with television cameras around, there’s more motivation for people to create drama and play matters up for the effect of the television show.
‘Copwatch America’ has a bit of a scary premise because the only real way for the show to have dramatic effect would be for the cops being “watched” to constantly be abusing their power. If they don’t abuse that power, there is no show — and that creates a vacuum for people involved in the series to do some things that could ultimately hurt law enforcement or prevent them from doing their jobs properly.
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