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‘COPS’ coming to Kern County, supervisors approve contract between sheriff and controversial show

'COPS' promotional photo with a police cruiser and sirens.
Fox Nation
'COPS' will feature Kern County sheriff's deputies in an upcoming season on the Fox Nation streaming platform. Paramount Studios canceled the series in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd.

Producers of the controversial television series “COPS” will follow Kern County sheriff’s deputies in an upcoming season.

Kern County supervisors greenlit the contract between Langley Productions, the show’s creators, and Sheriff Donny Youngblood on Tuesday. The agreement grants film crews “reasonable access” to officers and gives Youngblood final say on what can air.

Paramount Studios canceled “COPS” in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd and nationwide protests against police brutality. Fox Nation, a subscription-based streaming service owned by Fox News Media, rebooted the show last year.

Participating in the show will “enhance transparency” and serve as a recruitment tool for the department, Youngblood wrote in a letter to supervisors. Under the contract, deputies will not be compensated for appearing in the series and cannot compel people to sign film releases.

Like the series “COPS”, the sheriff’s department has experienced a turbulent couple of years.

A 2022 Kern County Grand Jury report found that inadequate staffing hampered the department, particularly in service and supervisorial positions.

Youngblood denied the report’s findings in his official response and Kern County administrators said the county’s human resources team worked closely with the department to hire additional staff.

In July, however, the sheriff said hundreds of vacancies remain on the books. He urged unincorporated Kern County residents to pass an upcoming one-cent sales tax measure to help with the department’s recruitment efforts and other issues.

In 2020, the sheriff’s department settled with the California Department of Justice over repeated allegations of excessive force and a lack of followup around citizen complaints, among other alleged problems.

The DOJ investigation found that the department had “failed to uniformly and adequately enforce the law” because of “defective or inadequate policies, practices, and procedures.”

For his part, Youngblood maintains that his department followed the law and said the settlement would benefit the department and Kern County.

A monitor, or third-party official agreed to by the county and state under their settlement, said that the department has made significant progress toward enacting the agreed-upon reforms, according to the grand jury’s report.

“COPS” was a smash hit when it debuted in 1989 on the Fox network. Television critics say the show paved the way for much of the reality programming that dominates today’s airwaves, despite a legacy of racial profiling and a sometimes loose relationship with the truth.

Production of the series’ 34th season wrapped this week; a premiere date has not been announced.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.