If you are ever doing something you know is wrong, like, say, publicly masturbating across the street from a middle school or waving a Jennings Arms .25 ACP caliber pistol in the face of some hapless BevMo! clerk, and you suddenly hear the watered-down reggae song “Bad Boys” start emanating out of thin air, well, you’d best put on your camera-ready face because you are about to be a television star! Back in 1989, the fly-on-the-wall aspect of peeking over the shoulders of police officers as they chased, tackled and then struggled to communicate with a bunch of fucked-up fuck-ups lying through their teeth in answer to every single question asked of them was a unique and somewhat guilty indulgence. Were we supposed to be seeing this stuff? Was it okay to enjoy watching it?? Those kind of questions were legitimate concerns back then, but we as a people quickly got over it, so much so that these days “reality television” dominates the dial with a bounty of lowest common denominator-fueled trash that is, quite frankly, hard to stomach.

I used to wonder if the powers that be in counties like Broward, King and Multnomah felt they’d made a deal with the devil soon after signing their contracts with Barbour/Langley Productions as viewers from coast to coast witnessed the antics of their local street vermin and undoubtedly made personal pledges to never get within several hundred miles of their respective municipalities. Now, I don’t think it really made a difference. Every community has its “bad apples.” The funny thing about COPS was that it always ran at 8pm on Saturday nights, making it the perfect background entertainment for groups of friends to watch while “pre-gaming” at someone’s house before heading out to get even more smashed at nearby bars and nightclubs. Whether these broadcasts served as a deterrent or an inspiration to the evening’s subsequent behavior is a difficult question to answer…

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