The civil rights group ColorOfChange would like to see Cops put behind bars.
ColorOfChange has asked Fox not to renew its unscripted law-enforcement show and is calling upon advertisers to withdraw support, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. On Wednesday morning, the group is sending supporters an email in which it asks them to sign a petition to that effect.
"Although marketed as unbiased, Cops actually offers a highly filtered version of crime and the criminal justice system — a 'reality' where the police are always competent, crime-solving heroes and where the bad boys always get caught," the email reads in part. It goes on to charge Cops and shows like it with over-representing whites as police officers and under-representing minorities as authority figures. According to ColorOfChange, Cops glosses over issues such as police misconduct and broadcasts "dehumanizing portrayals" of suspects.
"We're sending the message to Fox and to advertisers that Cops is not worth saving," says Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.
PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes With TV's Biggest Reality Players
A Fox rep tells THR the network has not made a decision on Cops and said it would not comment on the petition.
Cops, now in its 25th season, has long delivered strong ratings for the network at a relatively low cost. However, Fox cut back its order for Cops from 22 episodes last season to 16 this season in favor of beefing up its sports programming on Saturday nights, which is when Cops airs.
In its criticism of Cops, ColorOfChange points to research it says media representations such as those on Cops can lead to stigmatization of black men.
"Against the real-world backdrop of an American culture that views young men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Russell Davis with suspicion," the email continues, "the stakes couldn't be higher."
In January, ColorOfChange launched a similar campaign against a reality special in development at Oxygen, which centered on a rapper who has 11 children with 10 different women. Its petition attracted more than 40,000 signatures and Oxygen eventually shelved the project, which was called All My Babies’ Mamas.
Cops' one-hour season finale airs May 4 at 8 p.m. on Fox.