John Langley, Co-Creator of ‘Cops’ Show, Dies in Road Race

He was considered to be one of the pioneers of reality television.

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John Langley was the co-creator of Cops and died in a road race.
Image via Langley Productions/Wikimedia Commons

On June 26, 2021, John Langley, co-creator of the long-running show “Cops,” died during a road race in Mexico, according to Pam Golum, a family spokesperson. 

Golum said that the cause was an apparent heart attack during the Coast to Coast Ensenada-San Felipe 250 off-road race. Langley was an avid off-road racing enthusiast, and frequently participated in such events like the one in Mexico. 

Langley, and production partner Malcolm Barbour, was the co-creator of “Cops,” one of the oldest reality shows on television, which ran for 32 seasons starting in 1989. The show was known for following police across the country, whether it was in long patrols, apprehending people on foot, or covering undercover cops. 

The show was also deeply divisive. Many say it showed the law enforcement officer’s perspective, sympathizing with them, during a time when Black people were routinely killed in violent encounters with the police. Activists have called the show’s depictions racist and classist, and social scientists found that fans of the show have distorted views on crime, including that most people who commit the crimes are Black and brown. In one episode a white police officer was shown using his flashlight to pry open the mouth of a Black suspect.

The show was permanently pulled from screens in 2020 after protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a police officer. Some versions of the show still air internationally. 

Langley had defended the show in the past, saying it conveyed the “raw” reality of police work. His son, Morgan, who was also an executive producer on “Cops,” said his father didn’t want to perpetuate stereotypes and always insisted that the show feature as many white people being apprehended by the police as people of color. 

Langley produced a number of films and television shows, including the movie “Brooklyn’s Finest” in 2009. 

Morgan currently oversees the family production company Langley Productions. Langley is survived by his children, grandchildren, and wife.