Portland police get ready for prime time
'Cops' crew comes to town for the first time since 1989 debut season
The Fox television show infamous for its mullets, catchy theme song and wild car chases is coming to Portland this summer for the second time since the series made its debut in 1989.
Three crews from 'Cops' will follow Portland officers around for eight weeks this summer, documenting material for several eight- to 10-minute segments to air possibly this fall.
'They'll just just get a flavor of the entire police bureau while they're out,' said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a police spokesman who sat in on a meeting Tuesday with the show's producer and Police Chief Mark Kroeker.
Schmautz said the crews will ride with officers in the tactical operations division, traffic division, auto theft task force and TriMet as well as with senior neighborhood officers, focusing on community policing efforts and the use of technology in police work.
The show was last in town shortly after its premiere in March 1989, having selected the city because its field producer at the time, Paul Stojanovich, had ties to Portland. Stojanovich, also noted for his work on 'World's Wildest Police Videos,' lived here from 1993 until his death in March, when he fell from a cliff on the Oregon coast.
Longtime bureau officials remember the show's first visit as a boon to recruitment efforts. 'Ironically, it got us a lot of inquiries from around the country,' said officer Henry Groepper, the bureau's longtime public information officer. 'We had beautiful country, and our officers are real.'
Groepper also noted that the camera crews were easy to work with.
'They don't get in the way,' he said. 'They won't show stuff you don't want them to show, compromise an investigation or be demeaning to people. They take care of the (privacy) releases of the people they show.'
Schmautz said the show's producers decided to revisit Portland when they realized they hadn't been here for a while. It's been so long that Sgt. Lon Sweeney, whom they rode with as an officer in 1989, now has a son who is an officer in East Precinct.
If the two Sweeneys get some air time, it might be the first cross-generational 'Cops' episode, Schmautz said.
Several officers who participated 14 years ago have fond memories of the experience. Northeast Precinct Sgt. Harry Jackson was featured on seven episodes that focused on his prostitution missions. There was also an episode in which an actor portrayed him investigating a homicide.
He became so popular by the exposure that he was an answer on a 'Jeopardy' episode, Schmautz remembers. He was also offered a chance to host an episode of 'Cops.'
Former Multnomah County Sheriff John Bunnell took the producers up on the offer, but Jackson politely declined.
'I wanted to be a police officer,' said Jackson, now a 23-year bureau veteran. 'I didn't want to be a movie star.'
Jackson won't be hosting any crews this summer, either. 'I've been trying to lay low ever since they left,' he said with a laugh.
Now in its 16th season, 'Cops' has been nominated for Emmy awards four times and has filmed in 140 cities in the United States and abroad. It received critical acclaim as a pioneer of the reality-television genre.
The big question is, will Portland cops watch it?
According to Schmautz, the show's producer told him, 'All cops say they never watch this show, but we know they do.'