Television glorifies cops. Think about it: shows like Law & Order, Shades of Blue, Blue Bloods, The Rookie, 9-1-1, and many others — including comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine — place police officers as the protagonists of stories about the criminal justice system. Theirs is the point of view through which many viewers see narratives about crime and policing. In ways both intentional and accidental, these shows help us empathize with the work of police officers, often at the expense of seeing the systemic use of violence that leads to the continued murder of black men like George Floyd.
When the shows we watch on TV encourage us to root for cops (especially rogue ones who need to bend the system a bit to get their self-serving idea of justice done) it’s hard to disassociate that mentality when faced when the reality of cops on the ground kneeling on unarmed black men. It’s no surprise to find that these images of cops on television go hand in hand with continued stereotypes about thugs, criminals, narcos, drug dealers and the like. They’re two sides of the same propaganda coin. As a recent Color of Change study on crime television shows concluded, this TV genre does a disservice to audiences, “misrepresenting how the criminal justice system works and rendering racism invisible” including “depicting the standard, day-to-day practices of criminal procedures (and their outcomes) as race neutral, when in reality they are not.”
As protests across the country continue to reveal the brutality of the police force, actors who have played cops on television have begun donating money to bail funds as a show of support. It began with actor Griffin Newman (The Tick) and has since included Stephanie Beatriz, who, later, along with the rest of the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, donated funds to The National Bail Fund, which works to get people free from jail or immigration detention during the COVID-19 crisis. “The cast and showrunner of Brooklyn Nine-Nine condemn the murder of George Floyd and support the many people who are protesting police brutality nationally,” they said in a joint statement posted online.
You can follow ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s lead and donate to the Free Them All National Bail Fund Network here.