If You Played A Cop On TV, It’s Time To Pay Reparations

Photo: Jordin Althaus/NBC/Getty Images.
In response to the current widespread demonstrations against police brutality towards Black people, Brooklyn Nine-Nine announced that the cast and showrunner of the series collectively donated $100,000 dollars to the National Bail Fund network. This donation came after a number of actors who currently or previously portrayed the police on TV spoke out about their obligation to give back on social media. Actor and podcaster Griffin Newman, who appeared as Sam Johnson in two episodes of Blue Bloods in 2011, began the trend when he tweeted out a screenshot of his $11,000 donation along with his reasoning for the gesture.
Advertisement
"I’m an out-of-work actor who (improbably) played a detective on two episodes of BLUE BLOODS almost a decade ago," he wrote." If you currently play a cop? If you make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in residuals from playing a cop? I’ll let you do the math."
The recent killing of George Floyd is the latest in an ever-growing list of Black American deaths at the hands of the police. It's clear that serious reform is needed, and now actors, writers, and other members of Hollywood are attempting to offset the ways they may have glorified or idolized a police culture that in reality is deadly.
Following Newman's tweet, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actress Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Rosa Diaz on the show, posted her own $11,000 donation with the same message, and also teased Brooklyn Nine-Nine's $100,000 donation.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit showrunner Warren Leight also chimed in with his donation and message.
"I'm a writer who writes about NYPD's SVU," he tweeted. "We strive to depict the uneven distribution of justice in society, but our stories are mostly told from the POV of our dedicated detectives. Inspired by @GriffLightning and @iamstephbeatz I'm donating $11,000 to NAACP Legal Defense Fund."
Writer Danielle Weisberg, who's written for The Simpsons, including lines for Chief Wiggum, quote-tweeted Newman's message with her own donation.
And Monk writer Tom Scharpling posted a similar thread calling for donations from anyone who has "worked on a TV show or movie in which police are portrayed as lovable goofballs."
Advertisement
As Scharpling points out, TV and movies have "contributed to the larger acceptance that cops are the implicitly the good guys" which has allowed dangerous and racist behaviour to go unchecked at the expense of Black people's lives. Shows like Live PD, The Rookie, Castle, NCIS, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, Criminal Minds, and CSI have all given the police force the Hollywood treatment. A recent study from Color of Change and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center reviewed 353 episodes from 26 scripted TV series that focused on crime and police, and found that the overall messaging in them miseducates audiences. This could stem from the fact that 81% of showrunners were, and are, white men.
Similarly to when actors donated their salaries from working with accused predators like Woody Allen, actors and writers on these shows need to consider how their work has contributed to misinformation and pay up. And they should diversify their writer's rooms while they're at it.
To help bring attention to the police killing of George Floyd, you can sign the Change.org petition here, or donate to local organizations like Black Vision Collective or Reclaim the Block via the Minnesota Freedom Fund here.

More from TV