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COPS reality show may film in Spokane County in exchange for free promotion

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(The Center Square) – Langley Productions, the company behind the infamous reality show Cops, wants to start filming in Spokane County next month in exchange for promoting the Sheriff’s recruiting efforts.

The production company filmed in Spokane County in the past and hopes to return for the start of season 37. If approved by the Board of County Commissioners, Langley Productions would begin filming in Spokane Valley on July 16.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Kevin Richey, an undersheriff with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, briefed the BoCC on the potential agreement. He said it would come at no cost to the County as Langley Productions agreed to incur all of it and provide free promotion.

“It’s funny because we still get [applicants] to this day coming in and saying they saw our agency on Cops,” Richey said. “There was some pretty good episodes on Cops when it used to air.”

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office hopes to use the opportunity to bring in more deputies; later in the same meeting, Richey asked the BoCC to renew a program that allows the agency to provide signing bonuses of up to $25,000, as it hopes to hire 30 to 60 people in the next year.

The Sheriff’s Office also provides services to the City of Spokane Valley, which stated earlier this year that its precinct needed upward of 30 new hires.

Commissioner Amber Waldref questioned how the program could reflect on the community. Paramount Network pulled Cops from its schedule and canceled the show about a month after the 2020 death of George Floyd, which resulted in nationwide protests over police brutality.

However, Fox Nation, the streaming service owned by Fox News Media, picked the show up in 2021. Cops premiered on the Fox network in 1989 until 2013, when the network canceled the show, prompting Paramount to pick it up until the two networks swapped again.

Richey said the program is “funny in a good way” and that the Sheriff’s Office has never had any problems with the production. In the past, Richey said the crews were upfront and transparent about the process, allowing the agency to review footage before airing.

“I just worry about the negative light on community members, kinda in sometimes their worst moments,” Waldref said. “Is it really a priority for us to show that to the world?”

Richey recognized the Commissioner’s concerns but noted that the contracts provide that anyone, whether a community member or law enforcement, can refuse to participate. Additionally, his own experiences filming with Cops provided a deeper understanding.

Before becoming undersheriff, Richey was a patrol deputy and filmed with the production; however, they never used his footage because whenever anyone in a given situation refuses to consent, Richey said the crew withholds the footage, even if it’s just someone in the background.

He said everyone has to agree to be filmed. Still, the contract does not provide whether Langley Productions would withhold the footage, blur the non-consenting individual or delete it altogether. The contract only states that the production has no obligation to compel participation.

If approved by the BoCC, as expected next week, Langley Production will start filming on July 16 until September 10 with both of the county Sheriff’s precincts. Richey said the contract does not include the City of Spokane.

“With the crime rate being what it is across the country,” Commissioner Al French said, “knowing that there’s still a community that actually still arrests criminals is probably not a bad thing.”

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